Welcome to Slept-on Songs. In this column you will find recommendations of songs and artists that you have never heard of but will undoubtedly love. Whether it be music released by an unknown artist last week or underrated songs from major artists that passed under your radar, this series will make sure you have your weekly dose of fresh indie music.
It was a Saturday afternoon in 2016, and the YouTube algorithm had recently found out that I was a novice guitar player trying to learn something new. Apart from the multitude of tutorials for “Sweet Child O Mine,” I found a rather messy thumbnail of a college student playing his guitar with the title “Sultans Of Swing – Dire Straits (Josh Turner Cover).” The video was different from any other cover I’d ever seen; there was no introduction, no talking, no plea for subscribing — just music. The clip started and so did the song, featuring a 20ish year old in a quarter zip and bed hair, playing beautiful guitar in a messy dorm room. I was left enamored by how easy he made the music seem. And even though I still can’t play as well as he could five years ago, I’m still a fan of him and his music. This is how the internet introduced me to Josh Turner.
I met Turner through his music tutorials. It started with me watching his covers of songs by The Beatles, Frankie Valli or gypsy jazz renditions of standards like “All of Me.” But soon I found out that Turner made his own music, specifically through his indie-folk duo, The Other Favorites, with partner Carson McKee. In 2017, Turner and McKee released the EP “Fools,” and it shortly became home to a few of my favorite songs to date. The entire EP is a perfect combination of guitars, banjos and sweet vocal harmonies, representing sheer talent and passion for the art they create.
“Fools” opens with “The Levee,” and you’re invited to a new world evoking nostalgia for memories that Turner and McKee create for you. With its short verse, the song quickly moves into its catchy and powerful hook. On one side you have the guitar acting as a support, giving the song its rhythm and percussion and providing the track with steady movement. On the other side, you have the banjo giving the track a rather complicated and dynamic feeling. These instruments, matched with the song’s vocals, flawlessly express the feeling of watching someone you love fall into a baseless relationship.
“The Levee” is one strong track among many; every song on this EP is unique and embraces you with its warmth and inviting presence. Take the third song on the record, “Angelina.” The song’s smooth, long vocal phrases and comforting guitar chords will make you want to spend hours staring out the window with the music on a loop. In the end, the guitar solo is what steals the show in “Angelina.” Maybe it’s the nostalgia talking, but listening to that exquisite solo takes me back to that first YouTube tutorial with Turner teaching me “Sultans of Swing,” making each guitar lick seem so sweet and easy. I promise, this solo will take you on an exploration of Turner’s world, with its hills of silky arpeggios and field of saccharine intervals.
The record is a striking accomplishment, especially since all of the songs use at most two instruments. There are hidden gems of sweet melodies in every song if you look hard enough. A perfect example of this is the fourth song in this EP, “Flawed Recording.” I recommend watching the song’s video for a visual element. The clip cuts between the track’s first recording session in 2007 and a much older iteration. This video creates a special connection between the viewer and the artists, showing the audience how much the pair has grown in their musical abilities over the years. McKee’s rustic voice matched with the lush falsettos and harmonies of Turner makes for an experience to remember. While many musicians try to soften falsetto vocals in mixes, giving them a presence in the background, The Other Favorites deviates from the expected by leaning into their simplicity and giving us both singers’ vocals under the same spotlight.
This EP is almost its own person, a friend you don’t meet often but spend hours listening to their stories when you do. Every phrase, whether produced from the mouth or the guitar, is as moving as the next. The duo of Mckee and Turner works perfectly, both complementing each other while giving the other the space to shine. And even though some days I hate YouTube for recommending me distracting videos when I have an assignment due within the hour, I’m so glad its algorithm led me to the microcosm of The Other Favorites.