In what feels like an AOTY-worthy moment for indie rock fans everywhere, The One Eighties deliver a new record this summer that has left me on the edge of my seat from my very first spin. Appropriately named Minefields, The One Eighties’ most recent affair is hardly another entry in a year of rather mundane alternative releases; it’s about as different from its rivals as it gets without abandoning the core values of experimentalism that have given crossover content so much pull with critics in 2023. Minefields is a supremely wicked cocktail of surreal country melodies, staggered psychedelic rock, and a dose of pop songwriting that doesn’t unfold in a manner you’re anticipating at all. This is an album designed to be provocative in ways that lyrics cannot account for, and it’s as strong an effort as I could have hoped to hear in the mainstream or the underground the same this summer.
Everything in this record could be described as off-the-cuff, from the powerfully melodic hue over “Two Jet Planes” to the vast atmosphere behind the title cut, the tempo-induced tension of “Dead Star Light,” and even the nagging groove of “Fever Dream,” and I wouldn’t call any component here excessive. The One Eighties are quite good about balancing the efficient with the catastrophically out-of-the-box, and while some of the material in this LP is more flirtatious with indulgence than the rest, everything feels as though it belongs together.
There’s a strong retro country/western influence throughout this tracklist, but the central aesthetics in “Hold Back the Tide,” “Fools Gold,” “Cinnamon,” and “Trail” are anything but straightforwardly Nashville in nature. I hear a lot of deep-rooted psych-pop and even a touch of progressive rock in the compositional framework of Minefields, and though these two elements are rarely found in the same spot as a pastoral-style twang that most of us associate with the best parts of country music, they fit with the conceptual theme here elegantly.
I love the use of the mix to accentuate the mood in “No King,” “Nightmare, Baby,” and the aggressive “Two Jet Planes,” as it undisputedly sets apart this band’s approach to space rock-style harmonies from that of their contemporaries on the so-called mainstream side of alternative music. The One Eighties are utilizing surrealism as a tool, not a centerpiece, and this is perhaps what will endear their sound to college radio and indie streamers everywhere in 2023. Production tech is fine when it lends this kind of grace to a record, and beyond that, this is a band that knows how to use the weaponry placed before them.
If you like raw and unfiltered country music that owes more to the dreaminess of Americana’s backdrop than the self-awareness of its former champions, it doesn’t get much better than what The One Eighties are serving up in the stunning Minefields. A far cry from the watered-down sound that I’ve been hearing too much of on the mainstream end of the business lately, Minefields is an album that will demand a reaction from anyone who listens to it – and likely make a follower out of those who hear its complete tracklist.