Tall Travis fulfills a tall order


Zoe Colgan

Tall Travis rehearsing in the amphitheater April 13.

The album “Chicken Music” by Tall Travis is not filled with simple chicken clucks, but rather contains a complex instrumental piece of artwork.

The student band Tall Travis released their third album, “Chicken Music,” on Jan. 5, according to the band’s Spotify page. The album includes six new songs that offer unique perspectives on familiar childhood tales, relationships and overcoming obstacles. 

The Cynic previously reviewed Tall Travis’s singles, “Raw Milk is Medicine” and “Rotoscope,” in 2021

In reviewing these singles for the Cynic, writer and current senior Connor Adams challenged the band to overcome traditional folk tropes. In “Chicken Music,” the band leans into its folk roots but is able to create distinctive songs that are anything but traditional. 

Before the audience even reaches the songs on “Chicken Music,” their eyes are captured by the chaotic album cover.

A chicken the size of Godzilla stomps across a city that appears in complete distress while another chicken lurks in the water, like Vermont’s own Champ. Buildings explode in the background and the font scrawled above looks like it could be found on a ransom letter. 

The cover’s mysterious meaning encourages the audience to delve into the diverse array of music that awaits. 

The album’s first song is “Alley-Oh.” It’s the perfect introduction song because the instrumentals within the piece create an energetic atmosphere that invites the audience to listen to the rest of the album. 

“Alley-Oh” is an upbeat song that keeps your toes tapping. 

On a first listen of the song, it is easy to picture friends singing around a campfire and having a grand ole time. Vibrant and descriptive lyrics, like “Won’t you come listen, come stand in the rain / Cause we’re singing our songs from an alley-oh,” give the audience a scene to imagine. 

Not only does Tall Travis incorporate imagery in their songs, but also wit. 

For example, the song “The Tortoise and the Hare” introduces an alternative storyline to the common childhood tale. 

In this scenario, not only does the hare actually win the race, but the tortoise spreads horrible rumors that he won instead. The tortoise ruins the hare’s life, so the audience is forced to hold an alternative moral from that of the original story.

The lesson is no longer the familiar “slow and steady wins the race,” but rather that lying is malicious. 

The unfortunate yet realistic shift in the storyline is a creative way to make the listeners reflect on the lessons we still mindlessly hold close as adults. 

In addition, the song utilizes humor on different levels, with lyrics such as “I bet you didn’t even know that [the tortoise] was still alive in 2006, but / Tortoises live a long time,” which is a clever play on a true fact. 

The lyrics are thought-provoking and skillful. The song “Geese” has profound lyrics, written by band member Phineas Potter’s sibling, Willa.

The song embodies simple but painful life struggles like missing someone and feeling lost without them and the hardship of not knowing the importance of an individual’s presence until they are gone. 

The musical score, written by Potter, a senior, adds to the emotional context of the piece.  

Overall, the instrumental components in “Chicken Music” are vital to the success of the songs and help to create the overall mood throughout the album. 

For example, the trumpet emphasis in “Vampires are Poseurs” is a beautiful contrast to the traditional string folk instruments, like the banjo twanging in the background.  

Additionally, the variety of instruments and their execution is impressive. It ranges from orchestral instruments, such as the trumpet and clarinet, to the folk instrumentation of the harmonica, ukulele and fiddle. 

Overall, “Chicken Music” is a great listen and it is exciting to see what is in store next for Tall Travis.