Surprises by the Minute

From the Bar to the Bedroom (Independent)
Secrets With Strangers

By Kevin Gibson

Secrets With Strangers is the brain child of Louisville graphic designer Shawn Coots, who proves with this release he’s pretty adept with a melody and a song structure – and he doesn’t even need Adobe Photoshop to make it happen.

The textures that fill this 10-song debut are many and varied; Coots enlisted the help of friends Kirk Kiefer and Colin Garcia to fill in all the gaps, and the end product succeeds even as it tosses curveball after curveball.

The opener “Oh, Aberdeen” takes musical cues from the Shins, with a pulsing, danceable backbeat countering the desperate lyric of someone who’s simply worn down by life. Then “Social Networking” chunks its way in, sounding vaguely like Murmur-era R.E.M.

And then, when “Little Hands” pours through the speakers with its mournful country twang, one can only throw one’s hands in the air and submit to enjoying the ride.

The disc fills out with the trippy “Mediations,” which traipses along slowly, backed by reverberating guitar leads and a chorus of vocals. “Spoiler Alert” provides the album with a late sucker punch, stomping down on the pedal with a blistering tempo and some nifty, Chuck Berry-esque lead guitars, all in a two-minutes-and-out package.

“Therapy” then takes another trippy path to a rocking crescendo as one of the album’s highlights, before “The Pragmatist” rides a Beatles-esque piano riff to the end of the set.

All in all, this is quite a satisfying listen – especially for a debut – and one deserving of this town’s attention. Oh, and did I mention Coots is a graphic designer? Yeah, the album art is pretty sweet too.