Johnny Bertram & The Golden Bicycles
Esperanza Plantation Records 
Fire Note Says: An excellent sophomore outing from Johnny Bertram that plugs in and soars!
On Johnny Bertram & The Golden Bicycles sophomore record Neon City the group makes a slight stylistic shift from their more acoustic/folk debut approach to a much fuller plugged in indie rock sound. This transition starts right away on the slow burning opener "Wave" which begins gently enough as its slow strums and calm vocals lead you right into a strong guitar riff that runs below the surface and makes you take notice.
This carries you into the more upbeat "Out Of The Darkness" which has a nice bounce to it as Bertram's vocals lead the song along while the crashing instruments have their own fun in the background which gives the foot tapper big moments when Johnny's vocals fade out. It is this type of guitar and vocal work that shapes Neon City into the quality listen that it is. "River" is another example of this approach as it starts with a big arena out in front type vocal while it suddenly goes hush on its instruments while Bertram sings and then it kicks in with the pulsing riff again.
Now the entire album by no means abandons Bertram's roots as the title track is a big Americana mid-tempo number and the building intensity in Bertram's vocals on "Mistake" is a true highlight as the song keeps things more simple and lets his voice do all the work. It is the true evolvement and integration of Bertram's indie rock side that makes Neon City shine. The album also has a stronger cohesiveness to it that is the result of spending more time with his backing Golden Bicycles as their musicianship is called upon heavily throughout the record.
Neon City is Johnny Bertram's best record to date and represents everything that is good about indie rock. Its flare of folk gives the album an honest and sincere vibe while keeping just enough polish off the eleven tracks to make them believable. It has all the components of great Northwest bands like Death Cab and Built To Spill while having the singer/songwriter reflection of Samual Beam, Matthew Sweet or Justin Vernon. It is a winning combination that will keep you coming back to Neon City and getting more familiar with Johnny Bertram & The Golden Bicycles!
Key Tracks: "Out Of The Darkness", "Mistake", "Neon City"
Bands With Similar Fire:
Pedro The Lion
Iron & Wine
Johnny Bertram & The Golden Bicycles: Days That Passed [Fire Note Review 4/28/10]
Johnny Bertram & The Golden Bicycles Website
Johnny Bertram & The Golden Bicycles Facebook
Esperanza Plantation Records
-Reviewed by Christopher Anthony