Review: Nate Barnes Dives Deep On New Solo Project Plutinos

By: Julia Talen

Having toured and played with musicians and bands such as Rose Hill Drive, Ryan Bingham, Pete Townshend, and Matisyahu, Nate Barnes has set out on his own with his musical project Plutinos. Listeners can pick up on subtle influences, from the rock’n’roll of Rose Hill Drive to the mellow, singer/songwriter qualities of music by Ryan Bingham in Barnes’ new record, but Plutinos dives deep, proving Nate Barnes as a musician with his own sound and vision. Barnes has written, performed, and recorded all of the music on the EP, and each track incorporates a plethora of Barnes’ musical skills encompassing a wide variety of rock genres, from psychedelic, to indie, lo-fi, classic, and everything in between. Simultaneously, verse content explores the nuances of breaking the mold and becoming yourself after trying to fit into others’ boxes.

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The first track off the self-titled EP titled, “Out of Touch,” draws listeners into the disorientation of feeling “out of touch” with reality and with yourself. The guitar and bass are strong, and symbols thrash as we drop into the tune. Barnes’ voice is hazy and distant, rounding out the harder rock’n’roll instrumentals while also playing on the theme of feeling mixed-up and frustrated, “floating in the wicked sea” of “false hope, broken dreams” and feeling “out of touch.”

The second track, “Dream is Lost,” juxtaposes the first, with a slower more reflective tone. The tune opens up with language that conjures vague but evocative imagery with phrases like “slowly fades away” and “edges blur” denoting dreams, memories, and lost feelings. The instrumentals in this track mirror the sung lines, and the tune feels abstract and lulling.  Echoing and ethereal “ooo’s,” which we got a taste of in the first track, accompany the repetitive refrain in which Barnes croons, “the dream is lost.” His vocals are so echoey they are almost hollow, hovering over the resounding and meandering guitar that takes us through this misty, introspective track, which mourns the loss of a real, true dream, forgotten from getting caught up in a fantastical illusion.

 Nathan Barnes.

Nathan Barnes.

Up next is “Trying To Be,” which traverses the relentless pressures of fitting into conventional molds or boxes you think you should be in. The guitar and drums are heavy, again contrasting Barnes’ hazy vocals, which feel slightly more clear in this song. The lyrics are relatable, talking about social media’s influence on people “trying to be” something they’re not, and the tune, quite catchy, makes this one a stand out.

In “Falling Away,” the track opens with a more rustic guitar before Barnes layers his now signature “ooo’s” that haunt and echo with a bass and drums that reverberate. There is a beautiful bridge in this one, almost as if we come to a reckoning in this EP’s story of self-destruction while trying to fit in, where Barnes’ sublime guitar reminds me of something in a Sigur Ros song. Listeners get lost in this tune as it ebbs out and we wake up to the final track.

“Hand in Hand” is a hopeful send off to forge forward from the messiness of life with support so you don’t fade into illusory societal conventions and pressures. The verses sound like Tame Impala- psychedelic and deliciously dreamlike- yet the refrain, which builds, reminds me of the rawness that the Dum Dum Girls cultivate in a variety of their tunes.  A few bridges bring in that interesting, experimental, and ethereal guitar soloing similar to the previous track, highlighting how this holistic album weaves vocal and instrumental themes throughout, keeping it cohesive.

This record “venture[s] into uncharted wates… to dive deep,” as Barnes’ explains, like the mythological creatures named after the trans-Neptunian plutinos, who are associated with an underworld. Barnes’ self-titled EP feels hypnotic, raw, and contemplative. He has taken his experience playing with other bands, elevated it, and created something that is true, authentic, original, and definitely astronomical.

-Julia

All photos, videos, and embedded tracks per the artists featured and those credited. This feature was edited for brevity and clarity by BolderBeat.