Puzzle, the solo project of Fletcher Shears (one half of experimental Orange County rock duo, The Garden) has released an ethereal new album called Laying In The Sand. The album is a whirlwind of hip-hop vocals over new age keys, proving the statement that the Shears twins are rhythmic gods. Fletcher Shears never fails to impress, I highly recommend his previous releases Soaring which has a pixelated, almost Nintendo vibe to it in accompaniment to the sounds of The Garden that we already know and love, as well as 2013’s That’s Fine.
The cover has the Bowie-esque Fletcher splayed out in what’s obviously grass, with a panel featuring the desert and a Windows 98 design puzzle piece—beckoning us to put together the puzzle of Laying In the Sand. Luckily, this album stands out as some Fletcher’s most thought out and approachable work yet.
As Puzzle tiptoes through important topics of misunderstood youth, poverty amongst creatives, and the woman that he’s “Beyond Fond” of, the tracks bounce back and forth from feeling like un-ironic New Kids on the Block covers to extremely brief slats of Bad Brains & The Adolescents. “Kids” is a prime example of this catchy hip-hop bounce with a chorus that quadruples the speed and replaces swing beats for 1-2-1-2 raging.
Stream the album on Youtube here:
“What She Might Say To Me,” while absurdly grounded by the lyrics “Some people keep their garbage in a Styrofoam box,” feels a lot like a “Select Character” screen on an early 2000s Nintendo game. Much of the album has this: a cloudy aesthetic; ringing, lofty, and quite wet. The final track, “Excelerate,” a portmanteau of excel and accelerate summarizes much of what seems to be on his mind, but retains a speed and urgency that refuses to stop.
Fletcher stated on Twitter (@fletcherpuzzle) that the album will be on Spotify and iTunes in the coming week and physical copies will be available in February.
In the meantime you can buy (or stream) the album through the Puzzle bandcamp at the link below:
Several of Fletcher’s favourite pieces from the album are also available on his SoundCloud:
90s retro games such as Sonic The Hedgehog and Spyro came to mind when listening to this album, it often feels like it is rushing forward, clanging through the golden rings. Fletcher speeds through his topics, rapping and yelling, but they never seem to come to an end.
Words by Ben Davies