Into Beautiful Blue
Charlottesville, Virginia band Kingdom of Mustang’s fourth album continues its journey through mellow rock and jangling pop. The opener “All I Can Do” is a mid-tempo tune with gentle harmonies all around. And things really open up with “Here In The Valley,” a bouncy pop tune similar in structure to XTC.
The band is led by Mark Roebuck (The Deal) and supported by Michael Clarke, Tim Ryan, and Rusty Speidel. The music features some great melodies and thought-provoking lyrics, as “High” provides a great example of this. A song about avoiding your issues “when you’re making sense, but you’re inside out.” The band’s simple approach is deceptively catchy, and many “growers” are here. Highlights include: “It’s Alright (In The Wrong Kind of Way)”, “Whatever Makes You Happy”, and the sunnier”One More Day” and “Coming Soon.” Elements of folk and blues are subtlety brought into each tune and it gives Kingdom of Mustang its own unique pop style. Highly Recommended!
by Mike "Bloody Red" Baron on Pop Geek Heaven
Like Marshall Crenshaw and John San Juan, Mark Roebuck’s songs are instantly identifiable due to his unique chord structure. Roebuck’s been creating brilliant power pop since The Deal, a 1980s power pop band that began his unbroken string of lush, melancholy and hopeful songs, which the Washington Post called “remarkably assured pop classicism.” Kingdom of Mustang is an extension of that sound, with Roebuck's songs complemented by potent tunes from Tim Ryan.
“Here In the Valley” is a sure footed stairway to heaven with a sweet switchback at the bridge. Ryan and Rusty Speidel add graceful and sinuous guitar on “After Shock,” as on every song. This mature power pop is cerebral but energizing, sometimes reminiscent of Michael Brown, sometimes Pentangle or Fairport Convention, as in “A Little Bit Behind The Times.” “It’s Alright [In The Wrong Kind of Way]” is an acoustic paradigm shift roadhouse burner. If they switched to electric, they’d sound like J. Geils crossed with Nato Coles. “Whatever Makes You Happy” has those heavenly harmonics and a whiff of the Canyon, although this is an east coast band. “One More Day” is sunshine pop with massive hooks, Brill Building meets C,S and N. Each new Kingdom of Mustang is better than the last.
by C-VILLE weekly
Kingdom of Mustang delivers its fourth album, Into Beautiful Blue, as a power pop slice of nostalgia. The band is a musical collaboration between members of the popular ’80’s-era UVA group The Deal—Mark Roebuck and Michael Clarke—along with Tim Ryan, and Rusty Speidel. Stacked with decades of experience (in the late ’80s, The Deal opened up for Dave Matthews Band), Kingdom of Mustang is prolific in its ability to craft catchy songs. The band was working on demos for this album while simultaneously releasing last year’s Tales From The Atomic Tambourine. Kingdom of Mustang’s harmonies—Beatles-esque with nods to REM—blend memorable guitar riffs and melodies into songs you’ll want to put on repeat. Don’t skip “One More Day,” full of unrequited love, and the most poignant track on the album, “Until We Know,” which posits that from the moment of birth until our last breath, we are all lost (released July 2022).
by Pitch Perfect
4.0 out of 5
By Jay Freeman
Kingdom of Mustang is a musical collaboration featuring Mark Roebuck [The Deal, Big Circle, Sub-Seven], Michael Clarke [The Deal, Left Lane], Tim Ryan [The Gladstones, Jeebus, Left Lane] and Rusty Speidel [SGG&L]. The foursome first came together in 2016 to perform songs from Roebuck’s album, The World and All Within. Discovering a mutual love for songwriting and making records, Kingdom of Mustang has since spent most of its time writing and recording, but every once and awhile they’ve played some live shows before heading back into the studio. The band are veterans of the Charlottesville music scene since the 1980's and love making music as an ensemble. Now, Kingdom of Mustang has come out with their most recent album (and their Kool Kat label debut), Into Beautiful Blue. It sparkles with songs showcasing the band’s most ambitious music to date. The album is a 14-song sonic trip across the landscape of life’s uncertainty, featuring earworm melodies supported by arrangements built on soaring vocals, chiming guitars and intricate harmonies. The band’s style overall features catchy tunes wrapped in rich arrangements that bounce between power pop, indie rock and alt-jangle. The band has been compared to Big Star, the Byrds, Marshall Crenshaw, Teenage Fanclub and Crowded House.
The opening track, “All I Can Do” is all about laughing, or a song about looking at the humorous side of life. “How much more can I take, it’s all I can do,” declares the singer, in this inviting, rock-pop jangle-y number that features fantastic vocal harmonies. “Here in the Valley” reads like some spiritual message, with words like “Sunday soldiers” and “Son above all, King I am.” I like the accompanied organ during the bridge part of this song and parts of it did remind me a little of Crowded House. The song “After Shock” is about standing on your own two feet again, even after a struggle of some kind happened between you and someone else – “You pulled up the ground around my sense of being / and tore up the fencing round all my feelings / still I stood.” Musically, this one features a lighter beat, with the rhythm section playing tight. The guitars are more prominent here, too. The band kind of reminded me of a cross between the Alan Parsons Project and a softer version of Big Star. The beginning to the next track “High” reminded me a lot of the ‘70s soft rock supergroup Bread. Lyrically, I’m not sure what this song implies, but I was hearing a lot of influences musically – McCartney and Wings and Joe Jackson just to name a couple. I liked the backing vocal harmonies the best. The next song tells it like it is – at least for those who reach a certain age. “A Little Bit Behind the Times” is about when you come to the realization that you’ve grown older – way older – and the songs you’re hearing now on the TV and radio aren’t connecting with you anymore.
“It’s Alright (In the Wrong Kind of Way)” offers the listener a straightforward rock n’ roll song. I’d say this one felt to me like a little softer-edged Molly Hatchet, coupled with a little Tom Petty. “Whatever Makes You Happy” features a tapping drum beat and a music style that feels like old school pop. Think of the Byrds, the Beatles and vocal harmonies that are reminiscent of Crosby, Stills and Nash. This was indeed a happy sounding, toe tapping song! The next track “Down” is one of the band’s more somber, edgier tunes – slower in tempo and sadder in lyrics, too. It also features great solo guitar playing and wonderful vocal harmonies. “Divide by Zero” is about breaking up and it starts off with some plucking violin strings and a jangle pop guitar groove. The band’s sound here reminds me of a lot of bands/artists – the Rembrandts, Crowded House, Joe Jackson, Del Amitri, just to name a few. I really liked this tune a lot. “One More Day” showcases a strong bass melody, and a bright jangly guitar riff in this song about being hopelessly in love.
The next tune “Until We Know (for the second time)” had a different sound, especially during the short breaks between the lyrics. In fact, this song stood out the most for me. I don’t know, there was just something different about it that I liked. Perhaps it was because it reminded me of the new wave jangle pop sound of the early ‘80s or maybe it was just the way the band’s instruments were played. “With a Little More Faith” features universal lyrics about building bridges, breaking the chains of pain and “finding something that’s true.” This is a beautiful and inspiring song. The beginning to “Coming Soon” in fact, many parts to this song, reminded me of the Beatles and that one song that starts off with “I dig rock and roll music, it can really…. (something?)” Anyway, the band gets up close and personal in the lyrics here, centered around that “old as time” debate between – were humans created by chance or by some Mr. Watchmaker in the Sky? The best humorous lines to this track – “Well you can’t complain to a hurricane / and the sky just wants to be blue.” Kingdom of Mustang’s last tune is called “The Hero of the Tale.” The band’s sound made me think of Crowded House but even more so, R.E.M.’s somber tones and melancholy nature on their mid-2000s album, Around the Sun.
Into Beautiful Blue is a beautiful journey into many sounds and music genre styles, but what stood out for me the most was the quartet’s vocal harmonies.
by Charlie Pastorfield, man about town
I love power pop, and it's been great watching the Charlottesville band Kingdom of Mustang make great music for the last few years. Their latest project "Into Beautiful Blue" is just incredible and, like all great recordings, it seems to give up a little more of its secrets every time you listen to it. And if you were ever a fan of the great Charlottesville band The Deal, it's wonderful to see KOM member Mark Roebuck continue his quest to make the perfect pop record. This is getting pretty damn close. Over and out.
by Claire Fullerton on Amazon Music
Kingdom of Mustang’s widely anticipated Into Beautiful Blue melds power pop sensibilities with moving, storytelling lyrics, tight arrangements that breathe with paced intelligence, and harmonies so intricately layered as to create a wholly symphonic experience.
The 14 songs comprising Into Beautiful Blue have something for everyone and are ordered in such a way as to create the impression of an intentional ebb and flow, with a common thread of bright execution so pleasing as to hold the listener captive in its clear, crisp production. Out of the gate, the song All I Can Do delivers a guitar rhythm that strikes a groove, is punctuated with vocal personality building to a harmonic hook before it circles back to the steady beat. The listener aligns quickly, is eager for more to come, and the entirety of Into Beautiful Blue delivers. The poignant, au courant lyrics of Until We know for the Second Time are universal and introspective. They are what the listener hopes to hear from the extraordinary vocalist, Mark Roebuck, who gives us more of the same and displays his full vocal range in the fully realized, After Shock, and the sincerely delivered, With a Little More Faith, from which the CD takes its poignant title. Roebuck is adept at
setting a scene and delivering vocal character from a seemingly personal pitch. In the aforementioned songs, the sophisticated arrangements are appropriate to the task.
The clipping, upbeat character of Here in the Valley with its swelling backing vocals is steady, pleasing, and memorable, and the snappy, Coming Soon expertly matches it.
Each of the 14 songs of Into Beautiful Blue has something to recommend it, whether a lively, melodic tune is your forte, or sonorous, poetic musing is your preference. All told, Into Beautiful Blue is an expertly crafted, delightful experience, sure to please aficionados of quality production, superior lyrics, and first-class arrangements.