EGGS ON MARS – Album Review: “Warm Breakfast”

Hailing from Kansas City, Missouri is a delightful band with an equally delightful name, Eggs on Mars. I recently learned about them when their front man Brad Smith reached out to me after having seen my review of Kevin Robertson’s album Magic Spells Abound, asking if I’d be interested in reviewing their latest album Warm Breakfast. Well, I gave it a listen and like it so much, I’m happy to share it with my readers. Featuring 10 tracks, the album serves up 26 minutes of wonderfully pleasing jangle pop.

From what I can tell, Eggs on Mars began as a three-piece and has been around for at least 10 years. Like many a band, they’ve undergone a few changes in lineup, and now consist of the aforementioned Brad Smith on guitar, lead vocals & keyboards, Mason Potter on drums, percussion & backing vocals, Doug Bybee on bass, keyboards & backing vocals, and Joel Stratton on keyboards & backing vocals. They describe their sound as “informed by our love of 1960’s pop groups like the Lovin’ Spoonful and Buffalo Springfield, as well as guitar-based 1990’s groups like Built to Spill. We’re kind of like Guided by Voices, and the voices guiding us might be the Beach Boys.” After hearing their music, I’d say that’s an apt description, as I immediately recognized strong Lovin’ Spoonful and Beach Boys influences.

They’ve released a fair amount of music over the past nine years, including seven albums and an EP, their latest of which, Warm Breakfast, was released March 21st. Listening to some of their back catalog, I can hear how the quality of their songwriting and musicianship have steadily improved over time. Their early albums have a lo-fi garage rock feel, whereas their more recent works feature stronger arrangements and sound more polished and well-crafted. Eggs on Mars have this to say about Warm Breakfast: “On this new album we wanted a warm, textured sound and so you’ll find doubled guitars, electric piano, measured guitar lines, and vocal harmonies. These all accompany lyrical themes of finding joy in life’s simple pleasures as a means to deal with its inherent chaos and disappointments. It’s a happy record with sad songs, or maybe a sad record with happy songs. It’s genuine Midwestern somber pop.”

The album was recorded, engineered and mixed by Rodd Fenton at Solstice Audio, and mastered by Josh Johnson. For the album’s recording, additional guitars were played by Austin Smith, with additional backing vocals sung by Sam Smith and Rodd Fenton (I’m guessing Austin and Sam are related to Brad). The colorful painting used for the album’s cover was done by Shannon Brouk, with photography and album layout by band bassist Doug Bybee.

Warm Breakfast opens with “Especially Now“, a 52-second-long introductory piece that establishes the album’s overall theme, with simple lyrics advising us to be better to one another: “Be kind, especially now. There’s signs, you can tell.” Next up is “No Problem“, a short, catchy song that perfectly encapsulates my experience as a music blogger: “Giving, giving more. Much less than there was before. Falling, feeling drained. Little left and deeply strained. It’s no problem, I can handle this all fine. It’s no problem, I will make all of this right. It’s no problem, I’ll take it on.” The jangly guitars and lovely harmonies are wonderful, and the sweet accompanying video, created by Blane Worley, features both animation and claymation.

Gorgeous, reverb-drenched shimmery guitars are a highlight on “Wrong Way“, which seems to be about self doubt and inner conflict, feeling unsure of who we are or how we should act: “Just like a child I can’t decide what it is I should be.” It’s a beautiful track, and one of my favorites on the album.

Every Day I Cross the River” speaks to the daily drudgery of going to work every morning “Every day I cross the river, debating just what is earned. Weigh its worth against what’s lived for. Navigate through twists and turns.“, but thankful for having a loved one to come home to in the evening: “You don’t have to ask about my day because I’ve already lived it. You don’t have to ask about my day because you’re the best part of it.” The song starts off which just acoustic guitar, then the music gradually builds into a lovely soundscape of jangly guitars, sparkling synths and gentle percussion. Brad’s smooth vocals are sublime, rising to a falsetto in the choruses.

Keeping with a similar theme, “Never Change” is about how, despite the day-to-day worries and demands of life, your love and devotion remains steadfast: “Overworked, you help ease it, so I will not quit. I’ll never change, won’t change my mind.” The song has a mellow, catchy vibe, highlighted by a terrific organ riff. “All’s Well Elsewhere” features a languid, guitar-driven melody, exuberant percussion and beautiful Beach Boys-esque harmonies. I’m not sure, but the lyrics seem to speak to not dwelling too much on things over which we have little control: “All’s well it’s a fairytale. All’s well it’s not bad at all.” The video, created by Jesse Banion from vintage 70s footage of a beauty pageant, represents a kind of fairytale.

Eggs on Mars turns more serious on “Nameless Headline“, using the story of a man killed in a car crash to signify the randomness of life, and how those of us who didn’t know him might have a brief passing thought over his misfortune, whereas those who were close to him are much more deeply impacted: “That could have been me. Another nameless headline to most. That could have been more than it would seem. Certainly to those who were close.” The bouncy “My Words” seems to touch on the old adage “The road to hell is paved with good intentions”, also pondering whether some do good out of their own sense of altruism, or simply because they want praise: “My words, my words, can’t hold their weight. Demonstrations of compassion give me hope that there’s still something to believe in. My good intentions don’t redeem me. Are you fine with helping if there’s no acclaim?

Another favorite of mine is “Earthwormin‘”, both because of its marvelous jangly guitars, warm keyboards and lush Beach Boys-like harmonies, but also for its lyrics that once again speak to my own challenges as a music blogger: “Balancing is challenging to do now. Everyone expects something from you now. Day in, day out struggling get through, how?” Album closer “Whose Plans?” is a pleasing, mostly acoustic song, accompanied by what sounds like children playing in the background, and trailing off with ambient sounds of crickets at night. The spare lyrics ponder the concept of how our lives seldom go as planned: “All the things we rearranged, yet so few left unchanged. When we look at ourselves, has all this been done well?

Warm Breakfast is the perfect title for this album, as its pleasing songs are like comfort food for the ears, delicious with every listen.

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