When it comes to the messy, disorganized state of things after my move from Rochester to Portland, there’s been one constant–Class M Planets and their new album Ravenswood. I liked this music the first time I heard it, back in New York, and I immediately placed it on the top of the review pile. This music, which is “based upon the songs” of singer/guitarist Adam Goldman, is clearly evocative of one of my favorite groups in the world–Wilco. That’s not a bad thing at all. Goldman has that same shaky, vulnerable voice as Jeff Tweedy, and Ravenswood has that gentle feel of softer Wilco albums such as Sky Blue Sky and Wilco Schmilco. I looked forward to writing the review.
Ravenswood was supposed to be the last LP I reviewed before my cross-country trek through a land fraught with pandemic, paranoia and Wisconsin butter burgers, but I had to pack and get on the road. When I realized the movers had packed this Class M Planets album into a box, one of many, I had a sinking feeling that I would never get around to finding it, much less reviewing it.
But here we are, and I’m glad I recovered Class M Planets early in the unpacking process. Right there, first box I looked in, right at the top! It’s been a journey between listens, and I found myself liking Ravenswood more in Oregon than New York. First of all, Goldman and Class M Planets are based here in Portland, and this easy and mostly acoustic set, augmented by multi-instrumentalist Jairus Dathan Smith, bassist David Gilde and percussionist Liam McNamera, makes me think that little has changed since I left the PNW back in 2009. Americana was big then, and I feel like it still is. I’ll certainly find out in the coming months.
Second of all, repeated listens to Ravenswood gradually reinforce the idea that this band’s resemblance to Wilco is skin deep. Goldman’s weary vocals aside, this band is capable of many of the same awesome qualities–great songwriting, a tight band that likes to explore and shift directions on a dime and occasionally find itself in a different spot than where it started, poetic lyrics that also read well (a rarity, in my opinion). So yes, you will think of Wilco the second the needle hits the groove. But then you’ll watch Goldman slowly hack out a clearing in the woods and find his voice, his style. It’s his alone, and that makes Class M Planets a unique voice–it’s like reading two novels written by two different authors about the same subject. There’s nothing wrong with that.