Tugboat Captain’s first studio album Rut sees them deviate from the melancholic bedroom shoegaze that has garnered them credible recognition among quirk-loving indieheads over three years & two home-recorded releases. Instead, they have ventured down a path that is altogether more jovial and grandiose.
Secretly recorded in the dead of night at Abby Roads Studios, the band indulged themselves with whichever instruments took their fancy and have not held back on the production across the entire 11-track album. Free from the constriction that comes with a lo-fi sound, they have transcended to a realm of indie-pop where they make their own rules.
Tugboat Captain are the band that you (or maybe just me) often return to in times when it’s comforting to be reminded that allowing yourself to find humour in even the most mundane frustrations or problems in life can dwarf their inconvenience. Frontman Alexander’s ability to pen relatable, witty – and often unashamedly corny – lyrics on universal themes, such a post break-up longing, failure and mental health is what originally breathed the soul into Tugboat Captain.
It’s reassuring that despite the changes in soundscape, Rut explores these themes to the same depth as previous albums. Album opener ‘Check Your Health’ is an ode to checking in with yourself that hints at the confessional and self-deprecating tone that runs through the album. ‘C’mon! Haribo?’ is one of the best examples of self-pity being delivered with humour [C’mon Alex get a grip! It’s clear that she’s moved on and you’re still eating sweets for lunch].
‘Everything About You’ is the standout ear worm of the album. The conversational internal monologue that makes up the chorus [What was the first record you owned? / where was the first time you got stoned?] slides perfectly over funk riffs and into a fanfare of woodwind instruments that somehow work seamlessly in unison.
Despite its subject matter, lead single ‘No Plans (for this year)’ has an uplifting and hopeful quality whilst also boasting a guitar solo that perfectly resonates with the frustrations of banal lockdown existence. For the band, this track has surely taken on a new meaning since the cancellation of their American tour dates, including a slot at SXSW. Despite this, there are many reasons for Tugboat Captain to be optimistic moving forward. Creating three DIY albums totally independently takes more than just musical skill and, with so much perseverance and a new, pop outlook, they are only moving in the right directions.