It’s a new era. A new decade has dawned upon us, and a new mood will gradually start to set in as time goes on. The first noteworthy records are starting to trickle in in 2020’s waking moments, while the last late traces of 2019 are still lingering in the ether for review and comparison. Hip hop and country remain the most popular genres at the time of this writing, though there are already slight signs of a viable middle road appearing for the latter again that isn’t reliant on alternative renderings or cross-genre experimentation without central cohesion.

Enter Kolton Moore & The Clever Few. Kolton and co. have been around since the wee years of last decade and have two tracks that have exceeded the million mark (“Mine All Mine” at 3mil+, “Dear Mom” at 2mil respectively) on Spotify. Now, they’ve kicked off the 2020s with a new though fairly short release, aptly titled Everything Has Changed. Stylistically, Kolton and his posse are a lot who need not rely on exaggerated accents and overproduction to get their point across and inject a familiar rock edge into their wonderfully textured approach.

On to the album. “Stains on the Sheets” opens up with a sole acoustic guitar and Kolton Moore’s wonderful vocals before unfolding into a full, cleanly produced track perfectly suitable as an opener. Moore’s Indie-meets-Indiana hipster twang splashed up against a similarly describable musical backdrop produces the closest thing the pedestrian listener will hear to City and Colour singing 3 Doors Down’s “Not My Time.” Meanwhile, “Everything Has Changed” slows down into a twanging, brushing and keying introspective stroll in the wintery woods, a tune packed full of wonderfully channeled and controlled emotion and masterfully complimented by an expanding canvas collage of strings and ivories.

Kyle’s Song” follows even further down this guitar-and-heart-string plucking path, markedly defined by a swelling lap steel and dedicated to a friend, brother or someone in that general orbit who had passed 13 years prior. Kolton laments woefully that said subject of this tearjerker would have been “32 years old… probably have a couple kids and a brick home.” Before things get too sad, however, “Mine All Mine (Revisited)” dusts off Kolton’s early hit-by-streams from 2012, switching up the gears to a sunnier retrospective on time spent with a past lover.

Coming Home” hauls out the orchestra, which in combination with the regular plucking acoustic guitar makes for your basic Number 2 Pencil sentimental country song most of the time. That is mostly where this track falls, but there is enough of a unique flare to the song, perhaps mostly thanks to Kolton’s distinct vocal stylings that discern his output from much of regular country fare. “What’s Coming Next” looks more to the future instead of the past and is the most electrified track of the bunch, a well-handled burst of excitement and optimistic sunniness. “Peace in the Pines” concludes this seven-piece decade starter with a humble strum-along; the intimate soundtrack to a country hillside at dusk, woman in tow. On the note of “Don’t bother with those white and yellow lines,” the sun fades and the moon punches in, concluding a brief yet beautiful quest through sound- for now.

There isn’t a whole lot that needs to be said in summary of this record. If this is the way the decade is kicking off, excitement should be the term anyone and everyone uses to describe what is to come in these next ten years. This is a small and delicate dose of what awaits on the horizon, and the quality is outstanding. Well done, and we will see what comes of the music of the 2020s, as well as Kolton Moore & the Clever Few as time rolls on.