I liked “Left to Wander“, the first full length by Barefoot Engineering, almost immediately after putting it on. Sometimes you can tell right away whether something is your kind of music. After reading their bio, which describes the band as a trio of childhood friends-turned-40-year-old-dads from a large Midwestern city, who are influenced by Seaweed, Knapsack, and Jawbox, I knew I was in for a real treat. If I had to honestly describe what type of band would most likely appeal to me, it would probably be something very close to that.
The core of this band has been playing music together in various iterations around Indianapolis for almost 25 years. A couple of those bands include The Brokenhearted, and Project Bottlecap, the latter of which also included the original guitar player for The Ataris. With some breaks in there while people started families, this current lineup put out their first EP under the Barefoot Engineering moniker in 2017, and recorded this full length in 2021, the physical release of which was put out on Radio Cake Records earlier this year.
Although they definitely have their own thing cooking, there is an instant nostalgic familiarity to this band that’s super appealing to me (also a Midwestern born dad in his 40s who likes Seaweed, Knapsack, and Jawbox). “Left to Wander” sounds like something I’d mail cash in an envelope to Doghouse Records in 1998 for. I don’t really know enough about actual “music” or “words” to properly describe this style of music without resorting to comparing them to other bands with whom they share similarities, so let’s just do that for a minute. We already mentioned Knapsack, Jawbox, and Seaweed, all of which are reasonable comparisons. Sort of a cross between the last Jawbox record and Knapsack, but with the bounce of Seaweed. 90s guitar heavy Midwestern emo like Braid and “Purity and Control” era Giants Chair weigh in as well.
The vocals are clean, and have a nice range, being able to emote aggression without screaming (an underrated strength, imo). It’s vocally reminiscent of Rob from Bum/The Suitesixteen in tone, but laid over something like Silent Majority. I listen to this music and picture myself at their show, surrounded by bobbing heads in rolled up beanies with poorly dyed black hair curling out of the bottom. It smells like cigarettes and I’m 20 years old, it’s glorious.
No stinkers on this one, but my favorites so far are “Out of the Darkness”, “Book of Faces”, “Meaning”, and the excellent closer “Dancing in the Stairwell”. I love that there are still old friends out there making music like this. It’s very well done, and highly recommended.