Review: Outer Sounds by The Too’s

Review: Outer Sounds by The Too’s
Courtesy Photo Outer Sounds by The Too’s releases Jan. 13. This is the band’s debut full-length record.

Courtesy Photo
Outer Sounds by The Too’s releases Jan. 13. This is the band’s debut full-length record.


I am going to get a little personal here. My first run-in with The Too’s was back in 2013 when my former band, Damn Arkansan, shared a bill with them in their native Joplin, Mo. After my inquiry (something along the lines of who are these guys and why are we going to Joplin?), my bandmates’ played me the track “Old Songs” from their debut EP The Too’s at Lou’s (named in homage to producer Lou Whitney, known for his work with the Skeletons – oh – and as an engineer on a record called Being There by this Chicago-based band you may have once heard of called Wilco).

I was floored by that first EP. It had all the things I like in music. Strong melodies, great vocal harmonies, and clever songwriting. And before you go shouting “bias!”, when it comes to my thoughts on Outer Sounds, The Too’s debut LP, let me remind you that I am equally critical of pretty much everything I hear — my friends’ bands being no exception.

That said…

As I understand it, The Too’s had initially returned to Lou’s studio to record Outer Sounds, but had to abandon the project when Mr. Whitney passed away, thus delaying the completion. Undeterred, the band soldiered on and Outer Sounds is finally getting its release.

The melodies, harmonies, and stellar songwriting all are present on Outer Sounds, but two new dynamics are at play here that really frames this record: first, the rhythm section of Karl Doner (bass) and local Fayettevillian Lewis Brossman (drums) lay a solid foundation across the entire record; secondly, the songwriting in the Too’s is now Too…ahem…TWO-fold with guitarist/multi-instrumentalist Eli Chambers penning 4 tracks, including the lead-off “Gaslight,” a rollicking tune that finds Chambers’ typical tenor voice tuned to a gritty howl.

Eli’s contributions don’t end there. “Stay With Me” sounds like a lost 70s power-pop gem that would not be out of place on a compilation with Big Star.

But Chambers also shows his softer side with “Jackie Wilson.” Driven by electric piano, the song would be a great soundtrack to your trip to Muscle Shoals or a bender at your favorite dive bar. Finally, his fourth contribution, “Tired” ambles along in-step with your late-night walk home from that dive bar mentioned above. I almost want to say it would not sound out of place on an early Wilco demo.

Outer Sounds also features the familiar pen of songwriter Isaac Duncan (whose recent relocation to Fayetteville should be a boon for the music scene here). Duncan’s first contribution, “Lost In Thought” rolls along, and seems to pick up where “Deadman’s Hat” from the Too’s at Lou’s left off. “Certain Kind” puts the listener square into Joplin as the narrator notes “this red state that I live in, well, it could change to a blue state any day.” He ain’t singin’ about Arkansas…that’s for sure.

“Dreamer” further highlights the long-standing ELO/Beatles influence evident in the band’s earlier work and live show. The infectious sing-along “bop-ba-da-da” is a strong candidate for top earworm on this record.

But here is the thing, Nick – It’s Duncan’s voice that I think is the star on Outer Sounds. His lyrics seem to mosey over these melodies like a soft breeze. Isaac’s vocal never sounds pushed. Maybe that is intentional…or maybe it is just his natural delivery. Regardless, it is the cream to the coffee of Outer Sounds.

Yet if there is a message embedded in this record, look no further than the closing track “Slow Down (The OO’s).” This finger-picked guitar and electric piano-driven track is like the others in that it ambles along at a nice mid-tempo, and reminds us all that sometimes going full-bore just isn’t sustainable. Slow it down for me, Nick…


Prior to listening to this record, I wasn’t as well versed in The Too’s as I should have been. I’d caught the band live around town a few times and did some light listening in prep for those shows from their previous releases. Now I know I should keep serious tabs on these guys.

Outer Sounds is a lovely, smooth glide through the Americana, roots rock gamut. I could hear influences from Dawes, The Band, Tom Petty, Wilco and their ilk. The music within the songs here is plenty, with crisp recordings and nuanced production work.

You mentioned the Beatles, and I think you’re on to something there — at least in terms of their production. There’s a lot going on in the seemingly simple “Lost in Thought” track especially. There’s several instances throughout the track of ghostly “ooohs”, subtle piano playing and guitar swells that exist underneath the song that require an attentive headphone listen to catch. Don’t worry, The Too’s, I heard them, and they really add a nice finish to the songs.

I’m a fan of the music within a song sometimes more than lyrics and vocals, and this album’s strengths I find to be the instrumental breaks featured throughout the record. I can tell The Too’s are getting more into guitar playing — almost to a John Mayer level — and the jams here are both impressive and fun to roll along to. The piano and pedal steel, or at least slide guitar featured throughout do a great job adding body to the sound.

The Too's

The Too’s

Caleb, I agree with you wholeheartedly that Isaac Duncan here is the sweet crooner here on the record. However, I found myself enjoying Eli Chamber’s tracks here more. There’s more oomph in the sound on those tracks, and even if it sounds as though he’s “pushing” his voice, there’s a lot of interesting variance in the singing. For example, the falsetto in “Tired” is a really nice addition to the variety of the record — which I understand is the only untouched song from the original Lou Whitney sessions and remains a tribute to his memory.

And yes, “Stay With Me” is a favorite of mine as well for its energy — it’s almost like a lost recording from a Tom Petty & the Heartbreakers session.

Duncan shines with his relatable, catchy sing along-worthy lyricism instead. There’s definitely a good pacing between the two singers on the record, and that really complements the group as well as the album’s flow.

The Too’s are certainly a true-blue Americana act, but I was pleasantly surprised by the variety Outer Sounds has to offer up. Even though it’s only January, I can already tell this will be one of the best locally released records this year. Looking forward to catching these guys around town and hope to see them give it good run on this album.

Catch The Too’s Live

Outer Sounds Official Album Release Show

WHERE: Maxine’s Taproom, 107 N Block Ave., Fayetteville

WHEN: Feb. 12

Categories: Music