Golden Rules the Thumb

Golden Rules the Thumb

Golden Rules the Thumb is helmed by singer/guitarist Tyler Jackson and drummer Jonas Eule. Jackson and Eule recently played together in the great alt-rock project Endless Jags. This new endeavor is more like Jackson’s prior songwriting vehicle, Foam Castles, which tended toward psych-rock, indie folk and pop oddities.

The most distinctive new sound on GRT’s self-titled debut is the backing vocals of Tess Van Horn. Van Horn, who’s also an accomplished actress (and Eule’s better half), lends Jackson’s songs an alluring sophistication last heard nearly a decade ago on the early Castles album Night Crawling. Shannon Allen, who’s played on the Castles’ two previous records, contributes bass and keys; bassists Peet Chamberlain and Greg Bazinet also pitch in; and local piano-bar legend Flash Allen contributes keyboard.

The first single, “Memorial Highway,” is catchy as candy, chock full of chiming guitar notes and jangling tambourine. The raucous “Restaurant” provides the rock fix, and “My Strings” is a lushly textured piece of art-folk. But GRT really makes its mark on the second half of this 10-track album. “Society Ball” is a propulsive rocker that takes some intriguingly strange turns. The flanged-out guitar on “Wilson Pond” worms its way directly to the Center of Your Mind. And the brooding “City Schools” may be the most beautiful song Jackson’s created to date. “Oh, you’ve seen me waiting on the free meals and the hard details of love,” Jackson and Van Horn sing on the gorgeous chorus. “The October lightning / and the big flood it diminishes / you row.”

May as well just go ahead and say it: Album of the Summer.

— Chris Busby

Golden Rules the Thumb plays The Apohadion Theater in Portland on Sept. 1 and the Waking Windows festival later this month.

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