Conner Cherland’s Call Waiting EP begins with the project’s title track. On it, Cherland sings in a rather low voice at times and sounds not unlike The National’s Matt Berringer. It’s driven by a subtly rocking, jittery groove. It’s an unusual song/album title, as call waiting is a term/process most associated with landline telephones. Few of us use such telephonic devices anymore. It’s a love song, of sorts, which doesn’t come off happy or sad, and it’s an ominous way to begin a five-song project.
Cherland compares his career to that of a High School Musical story, in that he was a jock in high school, who deep down actually wanted to be a singer/songwriter. His style, for the most part, is folk based. However, these songs he’s recorded incorporate plenty of modern-sounding production touches. For example, “You Are What You Take In” is driven by a rock-ish groove, even though Cherland’s vocal’s leans toward the gentler side of the sonic spectrum.
With “Heavy,” Cherland gives us his prettiest melody. It has a memorable, driving bass line. Over it, Cherland sings an extremely emotive song. The album’s first single is “I Don’ t Need CA,” which is noteworthy, in that this EP came out on Santa Barbara Records, named after one of the state’s most famous and famously beautiful cities. The song is propelled by a soft rocking electric guitar rhythm.
Cherland changes gears significantly with “Good For Something.” On it, Cherland forgoes electric guitar – and even drums – opting, instead, for just an electric piano accompaniment. When a recording includes such a sonic contrast as this one, it’s there to get your attention. It’s like when a major league baseball pitcher throws a change-up. This is when a usual fastball pitcher throws a – many times – surprise slower pitch. Lyrically, it sounds a little depressing even though Cherland sings about being “good for something.”
The release closes with “Robin,” which is one more instrumental anomaly. This time, Cherland sings over just an acoustic guitar. Once again, there are no drums or bass. There isn’t even any piano at all. As its title suggests, this is a song directed to and about a girl. It’s also a heartfelt and sounds like it might actually be about a baby girl. There’s something about a newborn that brings out the best in us. It’s the sound of a new dad, one is led to believe, wanting to be the best dad possible.
Yes, Cherland has been inspired by many adult contemporary and folk artists. However, his Call Waiting album reveals how, when mixing in memorable pop music touches, it can help create smart pop songs. These are five intelligent songs, sung passionately. Lyrically, Cherland sings about the issues that mean most to him, which are his relationships with others. It doesn’t sound like he was out to widen his outlook to include more social issues. Perhaps the pandemic caused him to look inside himself, rather than look out and try to figure out what was going on in the world. His perspective is a musically pleasing one, so you best take his call and listen upon first ring, so to speak.