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Lasers Lasers Birmingham

Royal Blue – 2016 ( Self-released)

Reviewed by Andie Burjek

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CDs by Lasers Lasers Birmingham

The Ozarks meets Los Angeles in this offbeat, 4-track EP. Lasers Lasers Birmingham, the child of Ozarks-native singer and songwriter Alex Owen, consists of very country songs about the city. Los-Angeles-based Owen seeks to make his brand of country unique not by messing with the music, instruments or general vibe, but by the subject matter itself. The pedal steel and base complements images of the big city rather than the stereotypical rural scene one would expect with this genre. The overall EP, made up of what Owens calls "weird country songs," celebrates LA. It's as if "La La Land" had been about country instead of jazz. The consistently solid "Royal Blue" shows Owen is confident and skilled in his unusual country aesthetic.

The strong title track kicks off the EP. It has a "I lost my sweetheart, and now I'm down" sound, but with the LA focus. Although in his first EP, Owens did everything on his own, this time around he joined forces with Dave "Mustang" Lang on keyboard, Jon Schreffler Jr. on pedal steel and telecaster, Seb Bailey on bass and Jake Gideon as producer, engineer and background vocalist. The harmonies this group accomplishes in "Royal Blue" are right on. They're the heart and soul of this track, along with some solid work on the piano.

"Hard Man to Please" is a totally different type of country song, something fast-paced, energetic and fun. "Shedd Aquarium" takes on the tone of country rock circa 1970s. There's something charming and folksy about this track. "Great day for a stowaway/ Circle the Shedd Aquarium, getting high in the rain," Owens sings of the Chicago landmark. Lasers Lasers Birmingham was going for a swelling, stadium-swaying ode" with "Shedd Aquarium," according to their website, and they accomplished that with the raw vocals, laidback folksiness and long instrumental breaks in the song.

"Anyway You Slice It" closes out the EP with something strong, simple and also rooted in folk. This is only solo number with Owen on guitar. It's catchy and has a quick, quip-like, one-line chorus. "Anyway you slice it, it's just another routine." It has a repetitive rhyming scheme that carries on across verses. It also has more than a few memorable lines. He's getting drunk at karaoke bar. "Kick back a few, I'll be singing like The Supremes," he sings confidently. Lines like this are so ordinary - many people have a go-to karaoke plan of action - but the detail about The Supremes adds a charming personal touch.