Eric Ott’s second album, Letter Box, is an interesting melancholic ride for the listener. Ott’s stripped down sound and style are rooted heavily in the folk tradition. The simplicity follows through all of the songs. The listener can almost hear to the beat during every string that is plucked, and every snare that is tapped. Ott also flirts with the use of distortion in a couple of songs. For example, album opener, “We All Must Rise Up”, has some light sprinklings of distortion. The upward tempo is an overall instrumental chaos. This distortion appears in and out of Letter Box, always with positive results for the listener.
The melancholic ride is perhaps best illustrated in “Bird At My Door” and “Hawkins Revenge.” “Bird At My Door” is a folksy, if sometimes lethargic song. The beat never changes, and the guitar keeps drilling out the same sad riff. The violin provides a beautiful backdrop, and gives life to what sometimes becomes a very dusty and repetitive song. “Hawkins Revenge” certainly has the melancholic flavor of “Bird At My Door”, but the song is quite eclectic.
The jewel of the album would undoubtedly be “Young Skinny Girls.” Ott sings with a welcome whimsy: “I love my skinny girl from California,who lives in the valley… And likes marijuana sometimes.” The beat of the song channels that of a marching band. the vocals are wonderful, creating a nice haunting echo throughout the song. The tone and style of the song, seem to have Ott channeling some of the early alternative rock bands from the 90’s. The feel-good musical progression of the song, with lyrics about California, channels both folk memories of San Francisco, and even some of the lighter moments of Seattle’s heyday.
Overall, Letter Box is a traditional and safe folk album. Most of the songs are slow, and most instruments are stripped down. There are of course times when Ott throws in a nice piece of distortion, and picks up the pace at certain parts. For those looking for a slightly sorrowful folk LP, take a glance at Letter Box, you won’t be disappointed.--Casey Lowrey