By Melanie Stangl
Photography by Jason Starr
Modeling by Lydia Daily
Editing by Christian Laliberte
Summer may be winding down, but with two new songs dropping Friday September 20, local alt-rock artist Caleb Kopta keeps the season’s bright, passionate hopefulness alive. Recalling the vinyl records of singles with B-sides of yesteryear, “Girls” and “Wanderer” are being released simultaneously, as a package deal.
That’s not their only homage to a time gone by. I’ve previously likened Kopta’s simultaneously introspective-yet-anthemic rock style to The Killers and Catfish & the Bottlemen, but these two new tracks show undeniable Springsteen influences as well. The fast-paced drums and high-energy guitars in “Girls” sonically mimic the excitement of the initial rush of feelings in a new romance. (They give me “Born to Run” vibes too.) This intensity is also reflected in the lyrics, most simply and effectively in the chorus: “All I want is you and nothing more/all the other girls I could never live for/You’re all I want.” The earnestness and soul in Kopta’s lower-leaning voice helps elevate the love song lyrics from potential boy band territory to something more poignant.
As with prior releases, the production value is high as well. Touches of reverb, glistening synths, and layers of background vocals that alternately bloom and wilt add lovely dimension to the heart-pounding core—and demonstrate Kopta’s sharp arrangement skills. (He wrote and arranged both tracks, recording “Girls” with Jake Rye at Social Recording Company and “Wanderer” with Zach McCord at Blue Bridge Recording.)
“Girls” is a song that captures the magic potential energy of a young summer night, that makes you feel like anything could happen. Put it on during an evening drive and you’ll see what I mean. The vulnerability that accompanies this is also addressed towards the end of the track, with Kopta repeatedly singing, “I don’t wanna let you down.”
“Wanderer,” meanwhile, looks inward. This foray into slower, power ballad territory is a cool shift for Kopta, and an effective one. Sparse acoustic guitar strums at the beginning accompany lyrics that acknowledge the journey so far while embracing an uncertain future: “I can see it through the distance/Staring down that rolling road I used to know/I can see it in my old house/I was still a child with fire in my bones/I know it’s time/that I went out on my own.”
It’s a song that unwinds slowly, contemplatively, making it a great counterpoint to “Girls.” (Keep an ear out for a really cool twist about four minutes in, too—thank me later.) Individual instruments are more prominent, such as the cymbal crashes that accompany Kopta’s choral “oh-oh-oh’s,” and sustained electric guitar strums that ring out, recalling the open space of possibility he intends to explore. Vocally, Kopta travels to each end of his range, starting out low and reaching new heights as the song progresses—another fitting choice.
At the same time, the intuitive way in which these layers cluster, separate, and melt into each other brings you right along on the drive with him. “[‘Wanderer’] is a special song to me,” explains Kopta. “It’s about being a lone rider of sorts…just always on the move to figure out where to go or what to do next.”
“It’s really about your personal journey,” he continues. “Only you can live your life, no one else can do it for you. I live by those words.”
Personally, I’m glad his journey led him to making these tracks. If you haven’t been paying attention to Kopta before, now is an excellent time to start.
“These songs are the classic story of a short-lived teenage romance,” he explains in a recent Instagram post about the release. “Love, infatuation, tension, misunderstanding, confusion, hurt, dismay—all of it at once.”
“Girls” and “Wanderer” are out on all major streaming and download platforms on Friday September 20. You can catch Kopta (and his band) live on Monday November 11, when they open for White Reaper at The Smiling Moose. Tickets to this all-ages show are $12 and can be found here. Keep up with him on Facebook here (or his website) so you don’t miss any future announcements. You can also watch the music video for his last single, “Foreign Language,” below.