On its debut album, the married Columbia duo Admiral Radio comes across as exactly what it is — nice, personable, immensely talented, and overflowing with potential.
Backed by some of the city’s most polished and expressive players — among them American Gun alum Todd Mathis, who produces and also provides guitar, organ and some percussion; and Pocket Buddha leader Darren Woodlief, who handles bass — ”Sounds Like You” is bright and clean and warm. Its largely acoustic folk arrangements are unfailingly earnest and approachable, earning easy comparisons to esteemed Carolina peers such as Chatham County Line, Phil Cook, and Steep Canyon Rangers.
And it positively bursts with the elation of getting to write and sing songs with the one you love.
This feeling is especially strong during the album’s opening tandem. The title track is a breezy strummer threaded through with sprightly fiddle, and it finds Coty Hoover and Rebecca Smith singing to each other about how the music they make, and the sounds of the world around them, remind them constantly of each other, emphasizing the strength of their bond.
The subsequent “Two Star Motel” moves to a sleepier fingerpicked lilt, softly proclaiming that it doesn’t matter if they’re staying in a run-down room because of a broken-down car, they’ve got each other and that’s what matters.
The songwriting on “Sounds Like You” is satisfying, but never quite wowing.
The tunes key on familiar tropes, such as those moments when you hope with all your might that things will “be fine in time” (as on the gracefully flowing “Fear of Leaving”) and the bleary nostalgia that tends to take hold when you’re “Drinkin’ & Thinkin.'” It’s all pretty standard, but the instrumentalists frame it with such intuitively emotional playing, and Smith and Hoover’s stellar vocal harmonies are sparked by such unfakeable chemistry.
The album closes with a cover that emphasizes what Admiral Radio could become. The duo’s take on Fleetwood Mac’s “Dreams” is beautiful and reverent, with Smith reaching for a mix of sonority and rasp that matches the great Stevie Nicks.
“Sounds Like You” doesn’t have an original song to rival “Dreams,” but that’s an unfair metric for any band, especially one just starting out. Taken on its own merit, the album is what any debut should aspire to be — a very good place to start.
Admiral Radio Virtual Album Release Show
Oct. 9. 7 p.m. Free. Access via Youtube.