‘Safety’ is reminiscent of chiaroscurist, well-crafted, expansive 70s classics like Elton John’s ‘Goodbye Yellow Brick Road’ or Todd Rundgren’s ‘Something/Anything.’ Likewise, the album plays coy with meaning but ultimately reveals just enough, like dropped whispers of “angel dust” over grinding loops, riffs, and chimes in the exquisite “Samadhi Ecstasy.” The album embraces the simultaneously subtle chaos and mindful melisma of albums like ‘The Biz’ by The Sea and Cake and ‘Painful’ by Yo La Tengo. ‘Safety’ joins these albums in your collection among rock music that isn’t afraid to adopt the oblique and art that isn’t afraid to disrupt a winning tune.
A handful of songs are inspired by Gabos’s own life, such as “Utah’s Dime,” which tells the story of a friend’s recent “visit for a neuroscience conference with a bunch of wide-eyed lab assistants experiencing life outside the Beehive State for their very first time.” (That might be a rock album first.) “Rhonda on Blow” is about a woman on crack who came into a bar and sat down with Gabos and his friends, getting into heavy topics like dying young. “Supervolcano” is less personal and more topical, commenting on the hateful Zeitgeist that is building in this country and probably “forcing the hand of the burning mountain in Yellowstone that threatens a scorched Earth.”
“Judy Greer” is a great example of Sotto Voce’s synthesis of downer lyrics with avant quirks, squarely at odds with its own pop catchiness. Gabos feels it’s exemplary of his present talents. It’s understandably the album’s first video, which was shot and edited by Brandon Ivey and produced by Zac Coleman. Based on a schooldays incident involving a fundraiser where the prize was duct-taping the principal to a wall, Gabos plays the protagonist, with a “ritualistic shift at the end out of necessity.” It’s a trembling, feedback-kissed ode to sacrifice.
Which sort of describes the whole transcendent energy of the baker’s dozen called ‘Safety.’