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Silicone Prairie - My Life On The Silicone Prairie

The pandemic experience has been different for everyone, but I think I speak for many in the Midwest and beyond when I say that November 2020 through February 2021 was a special type of frozen, isolated hell. Thankfully, one source of light near the end of that period was the latest offering from Kansas City's Ian Teeple -- a prolific musician, engineer, visual artist, and newsletter author. My Life On The Silicone Prairie is the debut LP from Silicone Prairie, following a single released last spring.

The base of My Life is similar to that of Teeple's other recent groups (Warm Bodies and The Natural Man Band): caffeinated, treble-heavy, and precise punk rock with added elements of garage rock and new wave. One of the most impressive parts of this album, however, is its range of sounds and how far beyond the standard Midwest punk inspirations it goes to source them. Parsons-esque country rock moments are audible on "Lay In The Flowers." "Song For Patrick Cowley" pays tribute to a disco innovator. A reverence for classic rock (even if it may be tongue-in-cheek) is clear in the title of "Song For The Eagles To Sing" and in the free-spirited guitar soloing on "Born Into Trouble." Teeple also must have some level of familiarity with the '90s output of Matador, Domino, and Sub Pop, unless album closer "Come Away" is a total fluke.

But that's enough pin-the-tail-on-the-subgenre. Just as impressive as the seamless fusion of musical styles listed above are the songwriting and visual elements of the album. In the liner notes, Teeple thanks "the new internet reality, no matter how distant and cold." By my guess, this witty note and some of the album's lyrics are toying with different ideas about life in the social media age, further exacerbated COVID social distance protocols. "Silicone Prairie" and the ridiculously catchy "America" seem to paint a picture of a technologically-advanced, but ultimately ugly dystopia set in the Not So Distant Future.

While the most recent advancements in consumer technology seem to be mostly regrettable, the album also feels like something of a love letter to analog media and the 20th century miracle of personal recording. Drum machines can be heard throughout the album, both music videos ("America" and "Dance To The Beat") appear to be shot on tape, and Teeple mentions the use of their trusty Teac 144 4-track recorder on the insert.

Though a sizable portion of the album sees Teeple reflecting on their love-hate relationship with electronics, another portion of it ("Lay In The Flowers, "River Of Time," and maybe one or two others) consists of psychedelic escape and the introspection that escape allows for. The guitar picking and sweeping synth soundscapes are easy to get lost in, allowing the listener to think back on times they've had exploring nature, connecting with important friends, or ingesting something mind-altering (or perhaps some combination of the three).

My Life On The Silicone Prairie is an expansive, playful, and rewarding listen, simultaneously funnier and more serious than the efforts of many DIY singer-songwriters. The future is bleak and absurd, but we don't stand much of a chance if we can't laugh about it as we search for reasons to smile and keep pushing.

Stream, download, or purchase the album on vinyl below.

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