A boombox projects loud, eardrum rattling sounds. However, The Boombox Ballads, the latest record by Sweet Baboo, otherwise known as Stephen Black, is not of the in-your-face, window shaking caliber. Instead, the experimental folk artist weaves a refined, reserved sound more in line with the comfort of a listening room than the blast of a breakdance contest. The Boombox Ballads speaks softly, but announces its resonance through a deep, meaningful sound.
“Got To Hang Onto You” is the peak of simplicity. There is nothing fancy about it; the guitar doesn’t overpower, but does enough to drive home the subtleness. The vocals, especially, are understated to the point where they sound whispery. The whole track rotates around an easiness that transforms a smooth song into a catchy one. “Two Lucky Magpies” turns symphonic with a ghostly melody and vocals. The strings carry on what is a suave vocal performance, the smoothest vocal on the record. It has that troubadour quality to it that evokes a sense of simple serenity.
Jangles introduce the happy go lucky “You Got Me Time Keeping.” However, that’s not all this duet has to offer. A slow, waltzing string segment takes everything to a measured, calculating place. For as positive the opening is, this stretch carries the weight of dark strings as an indicator how the tides can change during this marathon. By the end, we’re left with a spacey ending that drifts away like stardust in the infinite cosmos.
The finale, “Over & Out,” puts this record on a slow, drowsy exit. It is a song about sailing away and it feels like it takes on the current with ease. Specifically, it is a moonlit cruise into uncharted waters on dull trumpets acting as carefree waves buoying the ship. It borders on radio silence with how subtle the melody goes about for the duration. In a way, it fits what this record does as a whole. This track, as is the case with the record, does not take you by surprise with wild swings in tempo. That said, it is a fitting exit for a record that doesn’t try to do too much.
The Boombox Ballads are an easy listen through and through. This cozy record is more suited for a listening party of one with a set of stereo headphones. That is not to downplay the overall tenor of Sweet Baboo, who produces a reserved, yet meaningful sound. Black is a smooth vocalist surrounded by effervescent melodies, both of which play off of each other to a tee.