There are certain people in this world who just “get” music. Some of the biggest stars of today still don’t “get” music and they possibly never will. To be one with music is to clearly interpret feelings and stories into lyrics and instrumentation. Some may say that all artists do that, but I would have to disagree. Having the hit makers of Hollywood Hills write or co-write a song to have on rotation on the radio and stuck in people’s heads for weeks is still rarely done by someone who was born with music in their heart and soul. I could be wrong, but what I’m not wrong about is Welles. Welles was born with music in his heart and soul.
The alternative indie artist is an Arkansas native who grew up with not much more than the clothes on his back and the roof over his head. He spent all of his time outside of school at the library, always eager to pick up a new movie, new book, or new album to listen to. His passion for the creative was innate and he flourished as he listened to the likes of Led Zeppelin and read the likes of J.D. Salinger. It was these things that forced him out of his comfort zone and into a new city — Nashville — to pursue his own creative story.
“How Sweet It Is To Love” is the opening song to Welles’ debut record, a Nirvana-esque alternative song that I think Kurt Cobain would be proud of. In all honesty, this stripped-down alt. record is right up Cobain’s alley. It’s reminiscent of the grunge trio’s MTV Unplugged session and the many covers they did during it. Welles creates a slow-burning sound that pulls on heavier rock vibes, but finds its niche in the indie rock category. The lyrics go on to explain that, “Rock and roll is a gas/Rock and roll slithers past/Rock and roll knows your heart/It will tear you apart/Rock and roll is a blast.”
His lyrics, though simple, are devoted. They emulate his personality, his understanding of music that is driven by the early days of The Beatles and The Rolling Stones, but enforced through his knowledge of late ‘90s and early ‘00s alternative rock. Bands like Phantom Planet and Death Cab for Cutie have an honesty to them that not everyone has. Similar to these bands, Welles creates feeling. His intertwining of melody and angst on this record is sure to create fans out of many people who yearn to find meaning, just as he does. This questioning and these stories come to life with Welles as the head — especially within “Seventeen,” the single from the record that has garnered him fans out of NPR and the underground indie rock scene alike.
“Seventeen” is a five and a half minute song that draws on being young and how both positively and negatively exhilarating of a time it can be. The vocals are almost melancholy, but have a breathless twinge of hope and power in them that make the song far from depressing. The fifth track, “Hold Me Like I’m Leaving,” has a similar sensation to it, but the beat is held together by a roaring, sizzling electric guitar. The instruments that open the song are the ones that hold it together, and in this case, give the song a boost over the rest.
Red Trees and White Trashes is the heaviest, yet smoothest alternative rock record I have heard in a long time. Welles is not impressionable anymore, he has found who he is. This album has a personality to it through the easiest vocals, lightest melodies, and darkest turning points within the lyrics; but, it is all him. After listening to it front-to-back, I feel as though I know Welles. I know about his life in Arkansas. I know about his approach to life and his approach to music. I know him. This is having music in your heart and soul. He went out on a limb to create a sound that isn’t exactly new and isn’t completely modern, but he did it. The album is fresh off the presses, so take your time in listening to it. These songs need to be absorbed one by one, and all at once: the way it was meant to be heard.