Valley Maker | Rhododendron


Family Average: 6/7

Rhododendron … Rhododendron … Rhododendron … say it ten times fast. Tongue tied? Confused? Annoyed? Me too. Fear not, this album is the tonic guaranteed to soothe you. Hailing from Seattle, the land of trees, coffee, and rain, Valley Maker has graced us with a bevy of beautiful, folk-influenced tunes about life’s various journeys. Was the family along for the ride?

Listen along on Bandcamp and read on to find out:


Dang looks like I found my new favorite melodramatic subway riding music. Actually though Austin has something special here and I am glad to have been exposed to it. Each one of the songs really takes their time slowly unraveling crushing warm tones. All the while fantastic lead vocals mingle with these ghostly sounding backup lady sounds.

That singing style really does resonate with me. It has this kind of subtle twang. Pair it up with an acoustic guitar, maybe a tambourine, and that’s one comfy tune. The way I feel about the sound makes a lot of sense when you consider who produces this album. Very quick shout out to Trevor Spencer. If you are wondering who that is, so was I until I looked it up. It is the same producer that has worked with artists Father John Misty, and The Fleet Foxes.

The Track “Rise Up” had me swaying around like a skyscraper. Did you know skyscrapers were designed to move a little bit? Weird I know.

The whole album carries with it this very zen outlook. This notion that the only constant thing in life is change. At least that is the vibe I got from it.

I just want to finish by throwing a little praise to how all encompassing sound of the drums. All the various forms the percussion took through this album fit perfectly.

That is all I got folks.



Be still my heart, I’m in love. What a little stunner of an album. The minute I heard that tinkling guitar and his emotive vocals, I was done for. Narrative lyrics over folk infused rock; this sort of music is my bread and butter. Simple in essence, it taps into a sort of poetry and magic that just soothes and enchants. The lovely, looping guitar; the tempered voice; the lush, sonic texture; it’s all working to create sweet and succulent harmonies. Nimble, soft, and delicate, he grapples with issues of faith, desire and a sense of self -- universal themes that yield a sense of common understanding. And yet, there’s a sanguine element coursing through it, conveyed through bouncy drum kicks and that twinkling guitar.  It’s just a beautiful rumination that made me feel something, and I connected with it immediately. What a dream.



I have be honest with all of you I was not a fan right away.  However I will say the second track, ‘Light On The Ground” was the turning point for me, a definite high point for this this album. It opened with mellow guitar work, that still had a pulsing electric beat, which was done very tastefully, very understated, not over the top. I like the way the vocals are layered on top of the lead singer. As the guitar-work gets more involved  the horns come in and bring it all together. It is a masterful work of art. I really like the piano work on the third track “Beautiful Bird” . Overall this album had a very dreamlike quality. I had to listen to it twice to really get the feel for it. I believe that the entire album works well as a composition it has a very cohesive quality with each track flowing into the next effortlessly. Well done kids



Oh nice, I don’t know what to call this genre but I’m really digging it. It’s attention-grabbing but in an unobtrusive way. It’s got a reflective emotion to it. It’s like looking out at the world and seeing more than you did before, the horizon stretching out further in front of you. Sometimes when you get a sound like this, the songs all kinda mesh together, each one just more of the same but slightly to the left. But this album collects a whole bunch of moods and wraps them together with a unique underlying style. It’s got this great mix of electric and traditional instruments, which mix and match to create different vibes and evoke different feelings from the listener. Echo effects were used sparingly, and given all the more impact by doing so. One good example is “Rise Up.” It starts out with just a guitar, drum, and piano. But eventually more instruments, like a tamborine and piano are brought into the fold. While I’m more partial to fast-paced songs, this slow crooning tune ended up being one of my favorite songs on the album. It got me swaying almost right away.

The vocals really shine in this album. I absolutely adore the harmony between the singers. Both of them have got such a smooth sound to them. The main vocals vary between world-weary, contemplative, and that old country-ish twang, while the backups have this ethereal quality to them.

Some of the later tracks didn’t have that wow factor. “Be Born Today” was in my opinion the weakest, and “Wonder” was more nondescript than the others. But hey, they can’t all be winners. And when the rest of them work so well anyway.

This is a great album, would love to see more from these folks.


Sean Maldjian