If the thematic margins of Great Lakes Myth Society, a Michigan band dedicated to busking about their home state, are deliberately limiting, it’s gratifying that the stylish folk-rock (er, “Northern Rock,” according to them) on their second LP, Compass Rose Bouquet, is littered with discoveries that can feel universal. When the opening “Heydays” places you on the doorstep of a plain-painted house that’s been “rented several times over by prettier girls,” it’s the kind of revelation that feels appropriate on the upstart label of Found magazine’s founders: a tangible scrap from someone else’s life that can resound with your own. Who cares what initially inspired these nostalgic accordion ballads, wilting violin lines, and hard-swinging choruses? The sunny vantage of “Midwestern Main Street”—which recalls classic alt-pop like the La’s or even R.E.M. with its maddeningly catchy lilt—might as well be titled “Main Street, Anyplace.”
The same could be said for two of Bouquet‘s other great tunes: the thundering “Nightfall at Electric Park” and hard-drinking “Queen of the Barley Fool.” Both evoke the historical bent of a band like the Decemberists—literate, highly postured, and influenced by immigrant folk traditions—but without a whiff of the unbearably fey indie-rocker-as-Bartleby preciousness. That both songs, like all the others, are likely about some actual location is beside the point. The record’sstrength can be heard two ways: as an introduction to a place you’ve never been, or a return to one that’s strangely familiar.