During one round of this year’s BandWagon Battle of the Bands, each contestant’s score was within one point of the other, meaning the fan vote would decide who moved on to the next round. It was this close round where we first heard the then-recently formed Nelsen. Nelsen didn’t advance that night but they left a lasting impression on us. The Wind, their debut album newly released October 27, lives up that first impression.
Nick Nelsen fronts the Greeley four-piece with his soulful, unrestrained voice and acoustic guitar, backed by guitarist Conner Shaw, drummer Mike Rhian and Landon Mills on keyboards. Nelsen’s sound is calm but full and passionate, with influences drawn from various places.
“I’m Glad” consists almost entirely of Nelsen’s acoustic guitar picking, with the backing vocals of his bandmates, though the group’s instrumental foundation is strong. Shaw’s electric guitar ranges from 1950s country to prog rock, while Rhian’s drums and cymbal work are jazz influenced. Mills’ keys are particularly noticeable on “Story” and “The House,” complimenting each song in question, adding variety on opener “Well I Guess Then,” and “Now I Know.”
For a four-piece, Nelsen has a very full sound that isn’t cookie-cutter, challenging us to compare it to anything else. The songwriting is marked with a declarative confidence that should belie their calm sound, but instead only feeds back into the streak of passion running through The Wind.
This is a rock album full of emotion, poignancy, whimsy and just plain coolness. Songs like “The Wind,” “The House” and our personal favorite “Father,” carry emotional weight, giving them more punch than a typical rock/Americana song. Nelsen doesn’t shout their feelings, they pour their heart out with a confident air of cool.
Fashioning themselves as Americana rock, there’s a streak of folk influences in The Wind, but it’s really a rock album with nothing to prove. Nelsen showed up to BandWagon’s Battle of the Bands with only their raw talent and came close to winning their round. The Wind is the result of that polished, raw talent showcasing each member’s abilities.