When a cassette like "Madison Boulder" begins, I'm never quite sure what to expect. It has the sounds of a home recording (press play and go) and the vocals and guitar together remind me of a cross between EFS and Daniel Johnston so all you can do is sit back and hope it doesn't take a turn for the worst and sound like clones of them.
Through some instrumental parts, Smiling Strange manages to find its own way- perhaps guided by those that came before it but not entirely down the same path. With audio clips it reminds me of an artist I have heard on cassette before, perhaps it was Having Antlers, but all I can remember is that they audio-clipped "Freaks and Geeks".
This gets kind of noisy in a rock way where it partially makes me think of Weezer, but on a few other levels I can also hear Neil Young coming out and that's never a bad thing.
I always feel like if I let my guard down some EFS or Daniel Johnston wannabe is going to slip through the cracks and dirty up my tape deck. Thankfully Smiling Strange has shown just how you can make music that has influences of powerful innovators while also staying true to yourself and your own voice.