Commuter Anthems is the second full-length release from the duo of Eivind Opsvik and Aaron Jennings, and the first for the Rune Grammofon label. Opsvik original hails from Oslo, Norway, but has been living in New York for nearly the past decade, while Jennings started out in Tulsa, Oklahoma before landing in the Big Apple himself. Their home-base locations may be at least partially responsible for their sound, which like many releases on the Rune Grammofon label, is hard to categorize.
The instrumentation (which includes guitars, organs, double bass, concertina, lap steel, banjo, and lots of subtle electronic manipulation) is just as varied as their styles of music, and its just as easy to hear folk and country sounds alongside some downtempo jazz (which the two members both have backgrounds in). There's also a sort of rural pastoral feel that helps keep just about everything on the same page over the course of the ten track, forty-five minute release. Unlike some of the more experimental and improvisational output on the label, Opsvik & Jennings aren't about knocking the listener over the head with anything shocking, instead opting to lull with a more serene batch of subtle instrumentals.
With short, but descriptive titles, the duo often gives a hint at what sounds they're going to produce on a track, and that's evident on opener "The Last Country Village," as curls of slide guitar waft over sparse but effective drumming, warm chimes, and quiet synths. "Wrong Place Right Time" hints at something slightly darker, with quiet rattles of hand percussion creeping around bowed bass and guitar. On a couple tracks ("Commuter Anthem" and "Port Authority"), some wordless vocals drift into the mix and both songs take on sort of a breezy, Chicago-influenced (think Sea And Cake or Tortoise) vibe.
"I'll Scrounge Along" is the only track on the entire release that has more of an overt jazz influence, and at almost nine minutes in length it's one of the only tracks that really loses its way and feels overlong. As mentioned above, Commuter Anthems is one of those releases that sounds great most of the time, but doesn't really have any places that completely stand out either. It's an album filled with small, subtle and downright nice moments, but nothing that's quite revelatory.