Dripfield | Pitchfork

Even if you don’t like jam bands, Goose might win you over. Since forming in 2014, the Norwalk, Connecticut quintet has grown into a live force with buzz far beyond the sometimes insular jam band ecosystem. (How many jam bands get hired by Ezra Koenig to officially remix a Vampire Weekend song?) Watching their viral set at Peach Fest 2019—which, like many Goose sets, you can stream in full on YouTube—I thought wow, these guys can play. But it wasn’t just their virtuosic performances: Between the sprawling solos, they had actual songs that I walked away humming. Then, in March 2020, while the world was trying to stay afloat during COVID, Goose made headlines—and actual money—from their well-produced virtual events and tours, becoming industry news.

While their first two studio albums were good-enough collections of songs written to sound even better live, Dripfield is being positioned as Goose’s first real album: an introductory statement to coincide with their relentless touring and mainstream breakthrough. Right away, you can hear what makes Goose different from their contemporaries. Unlike other jam albums that go straight into showing off, this hour-long LP takes its time to unfold, opening with the slow and lush “Borne.” Guitarist Rick Mitarotonda is an unusually smooth vocalist, using his voice more as a melodic instrument than a megaphone for any ego or brand. There’s also multi-instrumentalist Peter Anspach, who plays most of the album’s keys and finds a way to make his contributions a highlight of every song.

Most of Dripfield was written between Mitarotonda and Anspach, who now seem to understand that a studio album can be a separate entity from their live show, showcasing different skills and atmospheres. The testing of the studio’s potential with “Borne” continues with a seamless transition into “Hungersite,” which features the album’s best riffs and a guitar solo you can sing rhythm along to, all propelled by the stellar section that help this album sound the way this band could once manage only on stage: big.

Dripfield marks the first time Goose have worked with an executive producer, and they made a fitting choice with D. James Goodwin, who has recorded Bob Weir as well as jam-friendly indie acts such as Kevin Morby, Bonny Light Horsemanand Whitney. While he seems to have been decided to bring some indie cred and help curb the jam excess, he could have used his power to veto “Slow Ready,” a midtempo slog with no payoff, and “Honeybee,” which is a fine Fleet Foxes imitation and little else. Luckily, the album bounces back with “The Whales,” a welcome change of pace that goes for “Touch of Grayjangle. This is the tempo best suited for Goose in the studio, and it carries through the live highlight “Arrow” and the joyful “Hot Tea,” both succeeding with delightful weirdness in their horn parts, courtesy of Stuart Bogie.

All of this helps make Dripfield the rare jam studio album that doesn’t have to be heard live to be understood. Just because it doesn’t suck, however, doesn’t make it outstanding. Many of the songs have been a part of Goose’s set for years, and those performances remain the best way to experience them. And like most albums in the genre, each song could benefit from some actual hooks and could be cut down a verse or two. Yet Dripfield accomplishes something that is hard to do in the studio. Goose jams are carefully constructed to pull us into the grooves slowly yet surely; Often I find myself getting lost and forgetting what song I was even on, content to let the music ride out. The same way we rarely remember the beginnings of our dreams, stumbling into the action and following the loose threads, Goose have a distinct ability to put listeners in a trans, even stopping time for a little bit. It’s one of the defining powers of jam bands, and Dripfield has enough humble peaks and valleys to bring us into their world.

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