To be part of Drughorse, the Orange County collective of retro-pop aficionados that has included Max Indian, The Love Language and Ryan Gustafson, it seems you must craft timeless tunes that'd sound just as natural crackling over your parents' hi-fi system decades ago as they do pumping through your iPod earbuds today. Former Roman Candle and Max Indian guitarist Nick Jaeger is no exception: Cut Loose, the first full-length from his quartet The Tomahawks, is another unqualified success, rooted in sunny, soulful '60s pop-rock and loaded with enduring melodies baked under warm, murky lo-fi glow.
A laid-back vibe pervades Cut Loose from the start: Opener "Dear Mary" is a summery, carefree pop nugget that breaks into handclaps just 19 seconds in. "If love was a record, baby, I hope you'd spin it around," Jeager offers. "With every revolution, the sound of love would just come pouring out." These sorts of simple but relatable ideas thread through Cut Loose, enhancing its immediacy.
With a first-rate supporting cast—keyboardist Charles Cleaver, drummer James Wallace and bassist Jeff Crawford, who co-wrote a trio of tracks and co-produced the entire album, with nearly a dozen other locals helping—Jaeger has a local supergroup of sorts at his disposal. The talent doesn't go to waste; indeed, picking a highlight here feels unfair: Each tune has something to love. "Hearts" briefly disintegrates into a blustery wall of noise before soaring back into a lilting, harmony-filled refrain. The psych-tinged "A Moment To Be Free" spotlights the group's stunning, Beach Boys–esque coos. The amiable jangles of "Sunrise," singalong-friendly bounce of "Where Are You" and slow-burning blues of "When You Dance" nestle alongside the hopeful waltz "Loneliness Crosses Your Mind" and the wobbly "No One Knows." Cut Loose runs just 35 minutes and doesn't overstay its welcome, but it's unlikely to be leaving your music player of choice—analog or digital—very quickly.