Holy smokes, this thing is polished. Lost Keys haven’t been a band for all that long, but they’ve made a name for themselves around town by picking up some interesting cover tunes and making them their own. The players are all respected virtuosos in their own right, having been in various local projects that established each member as capable, talented musicians respected by their peers, beloved by fans of local music.
But nobody — not even longtime followers of the Frederick music scene — could expect the quartet to come out of the gate like this. Because with “The Revival EP,” Lost Keys prove themselves as one of the area’s elite original pop bands. Yes they lean toward soul, and sure, there’s a distinct worldly affectation to most all their work, but at the end of the day, these four guys combine to make great pop music.
And make no doubt about it: This short set of songs is a short set of great pop music.
Let’s take the tracks in order. Opener “Walking By Yourself” is a shot of acoustic-guitar-driven rock that calls upon vague blues and even vaguer funk. Yet when you toss a rippin’ electric six-string on top of it for transition purposes via the seemingly endless prowess of Anthony Sloan, the production takes on a more inspired feel. And then the bridge comes as the music drops out and some gospel backing vocals take hold while lead singer Trevor Davis’s baritone rasp adds grit to everything around it.
Better yet is the dichotomy of the counterpart to Davis’s inflections, which comes when drummer Jordan Miller steps up to the mic. Still somewhat hushed, Miller’s silky singing is highlighted on the worldly “Thousand Years.” With Spanish flair and a somber trumpet part that feels like it bleeds dusty roads and bright moonlight, it’s the purest kind of love song as Miller dreams, “Every time the radio’s on/it sings and plays your song/it’s how I know I won’t be waiting here for long.” If nothing else, Lost Keys have mastered delicacy.
And if you don’t believe that as a result of “Thousand Years,” there’s no way “Wakin Up” doesn’t do the trick. Fueled by a lead guitar riff that nearly mirrors the 2009 forgotten David Gray beauty “Nemesis,” the music paints a picture of whimsy, a planetarium of sorts that spins above your head like a mirrorball on espresso. Soft and poignant, lush strings fill out an already rock solid portrait of slowed down pop-rock and there’s simply no way a track as fully realized as this should be confined to only the walls of Frederick.
Because after the sensitivity and sensibility subsides, the quartet kicks off its shoes with the self-titled EP ender. It’s as slinky as the soul in Memphis and as tastefully murky as the Cajun ethos you get emanating from any doorway in the French Quarter. With the exquisite plays for pop that these guys display beforehand, the title track adds an entire new layer of expertise to their arsenal. And just when you think it can’t get much cooler, the bridge gives way to a seriously Southern organ solo before Sloan’s tasteful blues riffing steps to the front and a gospel-infused female lead sets in forcing you to understand that success in versatility isn’t even half of it.
Instead, Lost Keys have so many skills that the set’s truest victory can be appreciated only when considering these four songs as a whole. With “The Revival EP,” not only does this band confirm its high level of both competence and confidence, but it also suggests that their sights extend much further than a few appearances at area bars and restaurants. This is the kind of music that is made to be heard by the masses, and in a rare twist, it actually deserves to be heard by the masses, too.
So, if this is the sound of them waking up, as Davis illustrates in their song of the same name, it’s going to be awfully interesting — and infinitely fruitful — to hear how things are when Lost Keys finally settle into their day.
*** 31/2 STARS OUT OF 4 ***