Ayo River Flows Through a Failed State

Ayo River takes its name from an inside Portlandia joke – a seriously misleading reference point, since the Atlanta act shares none of that TV series’ arch sensibility, and bears no resemblance to Sleater-Kinney either. Ayo River’s debut album Failed State is wholeheartedly earnest, and quite appealing.

Similarities to early Death Cab for Cutie are inescapable – Weston Taylor’s slightly wounded vocals and well-crafted storytelling fall right in line with Ben Gibbard’s, and Athens-based producer/engineer/multi-instrumentalist Matt Martin provides a likeminded backdrop. Failed State sounds homespun but not lo-fi, relying on cleanly picked guitar and occasional synth washes atop more barebones rhythm tracks. These pieces come together best on “Mercedes,” which pulses with a melody that recalls both New Order and Courtney Barnett. On the title track Taylor confesses “As a kid I fell for Topanga,” atop a jangly tune that could pass for classic late 80s Britpop.

Martin has also worked with recent Atlanta it-girl Faye Webster who, like Taylor, has incongruous connections to the city’s hip hop scene. That affinity is audible mainly on the hazy trip-hop beats of closer “White Dress.” Just as Webster has carved a niche in outsider folk, Failed State is Ayo River’s impressive calling card for the heart-on-sleeve indie crew.

Photo by Latif Seesit.