Somewhere in the Arizona desert exists the French Quarter, which ultimately has no relation at all to anything in New Orleans. This French Quarter celebrates the softer side of pop, as evident on the opening track “Goodbye Alligator Skin,” which borrows from the spirit of Ben Folds and introduces the listener to Stephen Steinbrink’s quasi-falsetto.
Desert Wasn’t Welcome is French Quarter’s fourth full-length release and it is Steinbrink’s most mature record to date. The songs shuffle around with minimal instrumentation, soft harmonies and a clean, crisp sound. Beautifully recorded, every track comes across as an intimate affair, as if the band were right there in the room. Perhaps, that’s just the warmth of the vinyl which, along with cassette, is the only physical format available for purchase.
Why is this important information, one might ask? Though a digital version is available on Bandcamp, the spirit of the album is somewhat lost in a bits-per-second format; Desert Wasn’t Welcome is definitely a record defined by the turntable experience.
The pace of the album is unhurried and is best suited as a de-stresser; one of those records you put on after a forgettable day while taking the time to brew the perfect aromatic tea. And just before you allow gravity to override your senses with the fragrant chai in hand, it’s time to interact with the album, flip to the b-side and enjoy the best and final four tracks of the album.
“Red State” starts the impressive flip with a Death Cab for Cutie-inspired motif that maintains the softness and feel of the rest of the album while meandering into fresh sonic territory. The closer, “Got Ideas,” shares the spotlight as the both the bounciest and catchiest track on the album, perhaps foreshadowing the band’s potential in the years to come.