“Gold Teeth Girl”, a new song by the Waterville, Ohio-based folk rock band Oliver Hazard, will sound familiar if you listened to indie rock radio in the early 2010s. At the time, indie-folk bands like The Lumineers and Mumford and Sons were enjoying unusual mainstream success, racking up Top 10 hits and Grammy Awards while everyone politely agreed not to bring up how Fleet Foxes did it better in the first place. As such, you’d hear a lot of folksy, Americana-inflected sing-alongs, with plenty of yelpy male vocals and innocent declarations of love. If there was stomping and/or clapping somewhere in the percussion, so much the better.
Oliver Hazard, a band named after a 19th-century naval commander and currently going on what they call a “living room tour of America”, fits neatly into that mold. While Mumford and Sons experienced diminishing returns, and The Lumineers didn’t have many returns in the first place, Oliver Hazard has tapped into a genuine sweetness and innocence with “Gold Teeth Girl”, including enough interesting elements to keep things from getting cloying. The frontman’s voice, boyish with a sandpapery sweetness to it, helps sell the lyrics.
“Dress me up in all kinds of feathers/Stack your laundry and we’ll see the shore” doesn’t really mean anything (even if there’s some esoteric significance, it’s lost on the average listener), but it’s delivered with the earnestness of a love confession, and it’s that earnestness which lets you get on the song’s wavelength. When you’re in the right mood, what could be saccharine indie-isms become downright charming: of all the things to say about Southern girls, for instance, our narrator says that they “dress for the weather”, and it comes across as adorable even though it might just be a polite way to say they show a lot of skin.
Not that the weather feels particularly hot in “Gold Teeth Girl”. The season here is autumn, as evident by the thumbnail IndieVibes gave it on YouTube–a pair of boots in a pile of leaves. The instrumentation adds to this, with its hearty stomps and twangy guitars, and the overall mood is that of a particularly autumnal wistfulness: enjoying the good times while they’re here and looking ahead to something darker and icier on the horizon. But it all feels rousing and life-affirming, too, like a good harvest festival before the cold snap sets in.
“Gold Teeth Girl” doesn’t reinvent the wheel, not that it has to. As previously mentioned, if you’ve pulled up an “Indie Autumn Vibes” playlist in the past ten years, you’ve heard something that sounds like this. But there’s genuine emotion here, a sweetness and a personal touch that Mumford and Sons lost touch with when they got big (and which the Lumineers never had to begin with). If you’d want a comparison in terms of uplift and indie-folk prettiness, it’s like an American version of Of Monsters and Men (which was itself an Icelandic version of Arcade Fire, but not everything’s a perfect comparison, eh?).
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