That’s right Capital Regioneers, our favorite band this year is a well known duo of hardcore scene vets called dblgoer! Though they’ve only been around a couple of years, they’ve played their way into our hearts and pants.
dblgoer (or doublebasslifegrowingbrighter as it’s pronounced in ancient algebraic where it they hail from) is made up of Matt Heuston (aka Matth also of Glitter of Cohoes, Che Guevara T-Shirt, Friends of the Library, Catacomb Gypsy Vagina, and Lack of) on guitar, highly processed vocals and pedals and John Olander (of the Sugar Hold, Handsome Faces, Che Guevara T-Shirt, and THE Latent) on percussion and various electronics and pedals. This super experienced post-rock duo has graced stages from Albany to Troy, from Saratoga Springs to… Troy!
While it’s true they haven’t been on tour yet and keep recording, mixing, rerecording, remixing, and unrecording their as yet to be released single/album… tracks? they’ve certainly made astonishing inroads with fans and readers of Times Boredomland, who have voted the newcomers to the top spot in the first year they’re eligible for the list!
Being new gives dblgoer an incredible opportunity to define and redefine themselves as they see fit, as all that anyone really knows is they’re a couple of gingers that’ve been in a dozen local bands that have now found their own unique voice as a highly popular highly anticipated duo showcasing both of their many idiosyncratic talents.
In addition to also, having won this honor surprised no one moreso than dblgoer themselves. While their shows have been well attended, they didn’t realize the dizzying heights of popularity they’d risen to within their brief period bombarding the scene with many gigs within a small period of time. To show their appreciation, they agreed not only to answer our survey questions but also to pose for glamor photos (below):
TimesBoredom: Congratulations on being in Times Boredom’s Top 10 local bands! Honestly, how much of an honor is this for you?
Matt Heuston aka matth: It’s the most we could’ve hoped for
TB: Did you release any music in 2022?
matth: No, but there were some live things on youtube. WE did some demos, but held off on doing anything with them.
TB: What was your favorite show that you played in 2022?
matth: Maybe our Desperate Annie’s show with sky furrows, because Sky Furrows is great. But all the DA shows were fun to play, owing to the sound of the room and the people that come out for Super DArk Mondays .
We can certainly say that new for this year is they’re finally putting out a full length record. They’ve put out ep’s in the past that we’ve enjoyed some of which we’ve reviewed (or friends of ours have reviewed), and we’ve ‘heard’ good things about the new album as well (that was at least 2 jokes because we’ve heard so many of the songs off the new album played live already). At one point they were so comfortable with us making fun of them that they made fun of our head writer.
In addition to all the inside jokes we have with/about them (FFS, doesn’t TB have enough of those already?! Half the people that read this get 1% of the jokes! And they’re not even funny, they’re just references and winks and nods…), the songs we’ve heard Haley Moley playing live lately rock us just as hard as those they’ve been playing and recording for the 8 or so years we’ve been around (or is that how long they’ve been around? No, I think they’ve been around longer and we haven’t been around quite that long. They’re definitely older than we are. See, yet another joke that only I get. Not funny! Knock it off!)
And despite their many years on the road and in the recording studio they haven’t slowed down one bit. Haley Moley is itself actually a supergroup; I’m not sure if we’re allowed to tell people this JUICY bit of gossip but their name comes from the combination of DJ Jennifer HALEY and Paul’s long running solo project Mount MOLEY… put those together with small groups from other groups including Andrea Kosek, Mike Broomhead, and Pat Thorpe and have all of them play multiple instruments to create an enormous sounding orchestra of sounds where someone’s always filling in whatever the sound requires for the specific song and you’ve got a super collective of a group (in fact, there were rumors that the Haley Moley supercollective was going to swallow or merge with the Superdark Collective in various guises over the years, neither of which actually came to fruition but all of which served to help the stock prices of both collectives skyrocket!). And even with the smaller groups that came together and have continued to exist alongside the Moley (as the hip kids don’t call them), other groups have even split off and formed more new acts on the side in the meantime. This is a group of prolific musicians to say the least. Do they ever rest? Do they ever sleep? Our sources say no.
Which is why it makes sense although it’s still entirely unfortunate that after this record release Haley Moley will be taking a hiatus (indefinite? Let’s not say that. It’ll make people think they’re taking a ‘Fugazi style nap’) Some of the members will be focusing on personal projects (do babies count as projects? we think so!), and others focusing more so on their other projects AND, knowing, them, probably even more additional projects. Architrave, the HONEY collective, Sinkcharmer, all the albums Paul Coleman has mixed and mastered… the list goes on and on and we can’t keep up with it. It really is amazing that they’ve been able to do all that all these years and maintain a top ten local band that puts out records and plays live more than half of the bands around, and of course, has yet to make a song that isn’t top quality or play a show that doesn’t sound great. Congratulations again to Haley Moley! We hope to see you again soon!
One of the more anticipated groups to emerge from the Capital Region in some time, Bruiser and Bicycle’s brand of folk-weirdness will subtly slip into your mental landscape. While initially uninvited, you will begin to fall in love with their unpredictable and exciting songwriting that is layered with colorful instrumentation and arrangement.
The core duo, Bruiser and Bicycle. Which one’s which? We’ll never tell!
While their last release arrived in 2019, they play out fairly often; the editor of Times Boredom wrote me: “I went to see them last night and those bastards played ON TIME! I know, I couldn’t believe it either, but the show started at 8 (which in my long punk rock experience means bands don’t play until 10 at the earliest) and they started at 8:15 and were done at 8:45.” Their live shows are as equally enigmatic as their recordings, and allegedly, according to our fearless leader, they are so good-looking, everyone wants to f*ck them, but not after getting mind-f*cked by their delicate, yet sophisticated music.
Cover of Bruiser and Bicycle’s latest release, ‘Woods Come Find Me’
Stay tuned for the rest of the top 10 of 2022, to be published over the course of the next few weeks one at a time! Is your band one of top 10? Nah, you suck. Don’t take it personally, my band is way worse.
And we all know it’s out there just waiting to be found and distributed more widely.
Here’s a great example: Haunted Cat made an entire half hour Christmas special a couple years ago; https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qYBvbfPwztE (they also made a Halloween special, but it is Christmas and all depending on when you read this — that’s another thing. We all know that people visit Nippertown on a daily basis but Times Boredom’s only visited when a) your band or someone you know is mentioned b) when you find out about it which is typically not the same day so 5f) there’s a .00001% chance anyone will read this on Christmas). The production values may not be as flawless as the Sirsy video, and there may not be any ‘sexy dames’ baby singing ‘Santa Baby’, but come on. This thing is hilarious. There’s genuine humor here, and not just the kind you can milk by mocking an old style mr. rogers type christmas special. And in addition to the funny corny holiday cheer, there’s a number of terrific rock performances by… well I’m not going to ruin it for you because I really think you should watch it yourself (that’s kind of the point here). But there’s no link to this special, on Nippertown, Keep Albany Boring, Times Union, or any other local music and arts sites.
It probably sounds like I’m singling out Nippertown, however, I really appreciate Nippertown and think it’s the best site there is for local Capital District music and arts news, promotions, and just information in general. And in terms of music, they do coverage of all kinds of local music including underground stuff that other local publications in other cities would stay away from in order to get more sponsors or advertisers etc., to make more money. But Nippertown really is more concerned about helping people to enjoy the arts scene around town. So in addition to the Sirsy video they posted today they posted one by Warden and Co. and one by Taini Asili and the Messiahs. Nippertown is great; but because they are what they are they want to appeal to as wide an audience as possible. Unfortunately that often means groups like Sirsy, Super 400 and the Figgs that have been around for 30 years and have real PR machines get way more coverage than a group that’s just starting out like say, the Sugar Hold. The Sugar Hold is making enormous waves in the underground community, but in terms of local music time they’ve only been around an instant and as such they’re still building not only their fanbase, but their relationships with local media, their productions, multi-media presentations, etc.
So what’s the real problem? I suppose this is as close to an ‘editorial’ as we come here at Times Boredom (perhaps I should add that as a category/tag since my lazy ass has written 2 or 3 of these now) so I just want to say that there’s so much great underground music right now in the Capital District I feel like we could really be a mecca for a strong ‘alternative’ (term used correctly even if doesn’t apply musically) collective of recordings, performances, and overall knowledge by a large audience in the area that would really appreciate the music but just doesn’t know about it.
I mean if you were new to town and came from a larger city, and you looked for local music and saw Sirsy, you’d be like ‘I guess punk rock really IS dead, especially in this jerkwater burg. I’m just gonna listen to my old Minor Threat record again. There’s plenty of classics to keep me happy enough’. And you’d ignore every aspect of the local scene because you’d figure there really wasn’t anything of substance to see.
Another unchangeable issue is that as much great music as there is around (and there pretty much ALWAYS is, even in cities as small as ours in the US), it’s all about giving it a platform, getting groups together, dissemination and distribution. In short, a ‘scene’ needs to be created. And of course the ‘scene’ brings to mind all the stupid terrible things it entails like small town big egos, in groups and out groups, enmity amongst microniches, etc etc. (if you’ve ever been in one you know exactly what I mean). But what’s much worse is not having a scene at all. You’ve got a thousand people in their basements and apartments writing and recording music, playing in small groups with just their close personal friends, house shows where the band outnumbers the audience and the cops get called after a couple songs. Self indulgence, legends in their own minds, the complete lack of appreciation that makes would be greats quit before they get started, isolation and atomism and lack of competition. All of which are overcome by a scene that certainly does bring out bad aspects, but also often brings out the best of the music. Interrelationships, genre crossovers, the competition that makes everyone better (my favorite example is the Minutemen being inspired to write and record Double Nickels on the Dime in response to Husker Du’s double album Zen Arcade. Would either of these have happened without a national ‘scene’ based around SST, a network of punk rock clubs and people, and the PR and promotions that occurred — what little there were — were SO important that today someone like me (and hopefully you) know what they are and can appreciate them).
And we have the building blocks for a great scene that could even potentially breakout and have people saying ‘there are fantastic things going on right now in underground rock and punk in Troy and the surrounding areas’. And you know me, I believe the Superdark Collective is responsible for a great deal if not most of this network, collaboration, word of mouth, etc. And now growing on the success of much of what the Superdark Collective generated we have No Fun, a great club in Troy that plays host to so much of the terrific underground music we have around town. It gives the loners in their basements (not making fun; I AM one) something to strive for. A reason to record and distribute. A reason to ask their friends who plays bass guitar and if anyone knows a drummer. These are the organizing factors that create little revolutions, that make music scenes like Seattle, Mineapolis, and Chapel Hill break out so that maybe mainstream listeners don’t know, but folks that are into underground music have their lives vastly improved. Seriously.
If you read this you’ll probably think it’s a useless rambling editorial that won’t solve anything. And you’re right. Because like you I work a full time job and don’t have the time to edit this, make sure it makes sense, or strengthen the points I really want to make about how this publication, Times Boredom, really needs to step up and cover the specific musical niches that are burgeoning around here — the noise scene, the electronic scene, post hardcore, punk, and metal. I’m not criticizing wide reaching sites like Nippertown because I think they’re doing anything wrong, but because I think they’re doing what’s right for them and not just covering what’s already thriving and has its own means of DIY promotion and distribution but EVERYTHING/as much as they can. The reason I began (and talked WAY too much about) with Sirsy is that often means that whatever’s canned and has worked its mainstream appeal factors out, the heavily processed pre-mixed defrosted previously fully cooked spam that doesn’t need the coverage or promotion and is just overpeddling a mediocre product at best is what gets the attention and dissemination it doesn’t need or deserve. We need to fight against the Sirsy’s of the rock world and for the underground punk Haunted Cats, Sugar Holds, Superdark Collectives, 100 Psychic Dreams, No Fun, Architraves and dblgoers and so many more I couldn’t name them all — one person couldn’t even know them all!
So in a way this is a plea; join me in my quest to make the Capital District underground music scene as big and great as it can be. Especially now when we have so many of the building blocks in place. If you want to volunteer to write for Times Boredom, be it an opinion piece about the local band you love, a review of a great local album you just heard, or a sarcastic article making fun of you own band send us an e-mail today, we’re not picky! And as silly as we are and sometimes unintentionally/INTENTIONALLY mean, if we hurt anyone’s feelings we take it down. We just want to have fun and bring all the amateurs together to create something much better than it otherwise would be, so you don’t need any special training or experience to be one of us. Just a desire to join with us to promote and let everyone know about all the great music that’s going on out there.
Because otherwise it’s just me. And I’m already way too old for this shit, and only gettin fatter and lazier.
As soon as opening track ‘Billy Morris’ takes off you know exactly what you’re in for; quirky indie pop that makes you nostalgic for those late 90s/early 2000s obscure power pop and lo-fi label albums you were obsessed with but no one else seemed to be… And as expectedly unexpected in the lo-fi pop genre, Sing More Songs About Failed Utopias goes on a non-linear journey from that k records naive international pop sound straight through to the more recent experimental college pop like Alex G. Brilliant yet entirely unassuming lo-fi pop gems sparkle so brightly you almost cry when the harmonies are off key or there’s so many over the top saccharine sweet instruments added you know this will never be on the radio or most likely, anywhere other than a sad sad site like Times Boredom.
The ‘House of Tomorrow’ band is made up of some of the usual suspects of local musicians and scenesters; Kim Tateo (from Machine Revival), Brady Potts, Connor Amrbruster (an accomplished up and coming solo performer in their own right), Dan Prockup, and our good Superdark buddy (and good sport) Christopher Brown. It’s not clear who plays what, but knowing something about these kids most of them are pretty good at just about anything they pick up. And if there’s something else familiar about these kids that you just can’t put your finger on, you may have seen them (esp lead Nathan Meltz) in previous groups ‘The Machine that Wouldn’t Die’ and ‘Machine Revival’, or other similarly named quirky pop projects that have been playing around the Capital District for a number of years now.
The House of Tomorrow (in clever playing card form)
But let’s get less clever and do a more descriptive dive into the weeds if we must… must we? We must
Track 2 ‘Zion’ is to put it bluntly a brilliantly crafted pop gem. Like better than Sufjan Stevens. We hope it’s been submitted to college radio stations (if not take note here guys; this could be bigger than Alex G. Seriously). Though also to be blunt members of the Church of Latter Day Saints may very well not appreciate its rather flippantly wry portrayal of its… free loving founder….
And the standout track by far is #3, Themyscira. That off kilter (possibly off key; I can’t tell because I don’t have perfect pitch but I do have perfect OCD for an unbearably catchy hook) harmony on ‘reTURN to us’ could quite literally make Mr. Meltz a number one artist based on that note alone. And it stays with you after the album is over, and it will make you want to listen to the whole ep again. And then it will haunt you until you listen to it so much that you don’t know why it calls you in the middle of the night but you MUST listen to that cute little line about how Diana should ‘reTURN to us and leave the world of dicks behind’… you get the point. It’s fuckin catchy.
And if that weren’t enough, there’s the the surprise ‘Planet of the Apes-Man’ where I hope (I hope I hope) they’re exhibiting the influence of listening to way too much of the lates sixties/early seventies Kinks concept albums… it really does have that (forgive me if I’m repeating myself) naive underground pop music base that comes from groups like the Kinks that completely moved on from what made them famous yet delighted a loyal and changing fan base, in a way that I’d really like to think of Nathan Meltz and um, House of.. hm sounds like either they are a cult like the Polyphonic Spree or they’re making fun of a cult group like them — again let’s give them the benefit of the doubt and say it’s mockery. But all in good fun!
But… it’s not all clever indie transcendence… Not all of the melodies are as fantastically catchy as Themyscira. And perhaps it should be pointed out that if you like your lo-fi indie a little more punky or hard edged this isn’t a record for you, the only edges are the interesting twists taken with pop hooks and ‘fa fa fa fa’s’. But it’s definitely worth a listen, and it portends potentially great things in the future provided mssrs Meltz and co. keep it up and fight the good indie pop fight… we’re certainly looking forward to hearing more and love what has developed from the early days of the Machine that Wouldn’t Die to this terrific new incarnation of Nathan Meltz and the House of Tomorrow!
The elusive informant known only as ‘Catacomb Deep Vagina’ continues to disturb local music performers, fans, and media outlets with their rumors of pay for review scandals across the Capital District and beyond, some of which have now been confirmed. In the case of local underground ‘blog’ site Times Boredom, several former writers/traitors have come forward to confirm the rumors.
“Yeah I mean “Deep Vagina” or whatever that person is calling themself is off their fuckin rocker, but they’re not wrong about a lot of this shit. I used to work for Times Boredom until I found out what a corrupt mess it is. I mean, did anyone ever ask where their funding came from? Why all of their articles are total lies and yet were completely allowed to be published, challenged by no one? That’s when I quit and came forward.” says former Times Boredom writer Anatoly Petronin who is totally lying about all this because he’s an asshole.
But it’s not just Times Boredom that’s in trouble, according to alleged informant Deep Vagina. Allegations that ‘this thing goes higher than you would believe, all they way up to the top of the scene and everything in between’ have been published in various muckraking news outlets.
The Albany Gazette has uncovered troves of evidence to back up the massive claims coming from the Deep Vagina. Fake identities, social media profiles, even completely made up local publications have been used by local bands that paid for promotion and to pad their ‘press kits’ for over five years now. Bands have allegedly paid for positive album reviews, show reviews, even phony stories about themselves and their vocal, instrumental, and sexual prowess in multiple publications across Albany, Troy, Saratoga, etc.
“This really ugly shady guy with one leg and an eye patch approached me after one of our shows, saying if I paid him he’d make it look like hundreds of people came to the show. Then he’d give us fake great album reviews, all kinds of fake likes on Facebook, for only fifty bucks. This was a long time ago, I hear he’s paying a lot more now.” says Matt H. (‘matth’) of Che Guevara T-Shirt (and dblgoer abd NFI Records, though neither of these groups have been implicated), one of the bands that has allegedly paid bribes for positive promotions.
“And that’s when you told him to ‘go to hell?”
“Fuck no! That would’ve been balls dumb. Have you ever been at one of our shows? Of course not! No one has! But this guy got us like 10,000 likes on Facebook, and we were fielding offers from all over the place. Of course we gave him twenty bucks for that!” exclaims Che Guevara T-Shirt drummer Johnny O.
“I thought you said it was fifty?”
“Yeah, but you know, Keith ‘Kasrael’d’ him down.” adds k. Sonin.
Man. That’s fucked up. Even for us.
(As always, if you are offended by anything you read here, please go fuck yourself in your own home with a self-addressed stamped envelope. Thanks so much!)
Many others are coming forward rather than be exposed first by the Albany Gazette. Architrave Stripmining, BattleaXXX and Shovels, Thinner Friends in the Superdark, Haunted Cat Industrial Espionage, Fine Grain long haired metal guy Beauty products, the list goes on and on, all the way up to local media organizations like Superdark Boogey Productions (a subsidiary of the Superdark Franchising Corporation), Nippertown Candy and T-shirts inc., The Spot 518 Book Club and elephant Menagerie, and so on. No real groups or publications have been indicted yet.
While many of the groups mentioned above have admitted having worked with the shady individual, they claim to have had no foreknowledge that the alleged one legged one eyed blue pants wearing person (no one knows his real name, some say it’s Dave.) was involved in ‘pay for vagina play’. They say the mysterious individual volunteered to write a few articles for their publications but they were unaware of any payments whatsoever.
“He used fake names, fake profiles, whatever it took to throw people off the trail. I heard he had thousands of fake facebook profiles, and he charged for likes and follows. He could make or break any Albany band, and he did. I told my bosses not to trust him, and eventually they found out I was right. I am the greatest muckraking reporter that has ever lived, and I deserve all the credit for exposing all of this. And fuck you, Times Boredom; you never paid me for those articles I wrote for you!” screamed local liar/journalist Wendell Wright after he insisted we interview him (he’s also an asshole).
The truth of these allegations and the denials by most of the groups and organizations involved will probably come forward in the next few months or years from now. In the meantime, if this fake reporter might editorialize, shouldn’t someone have been asking why local publications were consistently, often even hyperbolically (not a word) giving out phenomenal reviews to any musical group in the area they wrote about? Isn’t it obvious that, with all the ‘fake names’ and ‘fake profiles’, this is not simply a one person operation, but that the Germans are most likely involved? And your mom? Your mom’s definitely in on this. Ask her. I told her it was ok to tell you. But seriously, none of this stuff is actually illegal, so who gives a shit? I say if a foreign operative wants to come to our town, promote a bunch of local music and make a boatload of money doing it, please give me their phone number so I can either learn how or blackmail them.
So we’ve been chatting with Lucas Garrett back and forth on Facebook and we can say, without qualification, he’s a real cool guy. Mostly because not only did he reach out to us here at Times Boredom, but he did so to tell us how much he enjoys our shitty little anti-commercial blog. And furthermore, he likes it so much he wanted to be featured in an article!
To be clear, ANYONE that thinks our diamond in the shit publication is good or funny or even ironically enjoyable is fucking cool in our book. Someone that wants to be featured, well that’s just smart (but risky) marketing, given how much fame and fortune it unfailingly grants bands we write articles soon thereafter (even if we do sometimes cross the line and make too much fun of them). Problem on our end is, lazy stoners that we are, we never came up with an idea for an article; it might have helped to have seen Mr. Garrett and/or his band live, but you know, the pandemic’s kinda put a dampener on that. And everything else about live music.
Anyway, this cooler than fucking cool guy says ‘I forgive you lazy dickheads for not making a mockumentary style article that you just ripped off from hardtimes.net and changed the names to to sound like it’s about me, but seriously, can you at least just review my upcoming ep?’
Which makes him a cool, really brave musician; if you’re unfamiliar with our reviews, we put a HUGE FUCKING WARNING on our submission page. We are brutally honest. And often times this can be inappropriate, as we’re very hung up on the type, style, and commercial considerations of a group or artist. Perhaps even more so than whether they make good music or not. So, say, if someone makes excellent Elton John influenced music, we’re gonna hate it and not pull any punches. Not because we have anything musically or even personally against Elton John, but his songs are bitter to our ears, and then they make themselves comfortable and stick around anyway especially when you don’t want them to. Not to mention the non-diy non-independent nature of his commercial music, which to our stable of far leftist ‘tankies’ is offensive before we even hear a note. And we’re not fair or even-handed enough to leave our prejudices against certain artists and styles at the door when reviewing newer stuff, instead writing as though the influenced artist is somehow themselves guilty of the sins of their influencers…
Point is we’re dickheads. And when it comes to reviews, we play dirty and sometimes even nasty. And our pal Lucas, (I know we haven’t known you for that long, but before you read this review you’d say we’re pals, right buddy?), well aware of our shitty, unnecessarily mean reputation, asks us to review his pop/rock ep that, if his old stuff is any indication, is gonna lean on some commercial indie pop rock (let’s assume none of it’s corporate for the sake of our enjoyment) for at least a significant portion thereof (also knowing full well that we worship only unlistenable noise and brutal funeral doom). On the other hand as we’ve heard and see with the cover artwork, his work may becounterbalanced by a healthy dose of cow punk, maybe some Minutemen style post-hardcore funk punk? Still, we’re afraid we’re gonna say something mean (given our style of radical truth telling) and then we won’t be buddies no more. But we did promise we’d review anything we got. Even if it does hurt our friends’ feelings and our chance of being buddies in the future. So, here we go, and god help us all…
(Please keep in mind that the above pre-ramble is meant to not only cover our asses in the likely event someone gets rightfully pissed and throws the grenade back at us, but also to stop any of our ‘fairweather fans’ out there just looking for a short, cute, funny article to continue reading this one. Are you still reading? Ok. You’ve been adequately warned and then some.)
We usually start our mean reviews by at least noting that the artist and their crew are talented individuals. And in the case of Lucas Garrett (who does the lions’ share of leading on lead vocals and guitar, synths, MIDI programming, etc), bass player Kevin Kossach, and Emmet Rozelle on drums, there’s no doubt whatsoever that this is the case (past bands that backed up Mr. Garrett are a veritable who’s who of talented up and coming Glens Falls musicians). And though much of the percussive and bass work is entirely excellent (as can be heard when either or both are briefly highlighted at times over other instruments as all too short instrumental interludes give way back to melody or during one of many percussive fills that don’t miss a beat) the talent here is clearly meant and does a near perfect job of highlighting the songwriting and performing talents of Lucas Garrett. To make a long review short(er), the band’s tight as a drum. So in sync and overtly professional we wonder why all of these talented musicians (including Garrett himself of course) aren’t making mad bank doing studio work for labels with lots of money (hopefully they are when they’re not doing this). But here, they’re doing an excellent enough job to make you almost forget (unlike most of the other more amateur records we review) that you’re listening to an unsigned non major label release that’s clean cut in all the right places.
In addition to the sound being nothing short of disturbingly professional and unobtrusive, the overall effect is almost entirely unique. You can perhaps guess at influences here and there, but they’re almost impossible to pinpoint. No one’s trying to sound like this band or show off how well they know the depth of some obscure Beach Boys record, but rather, the effortlesness comes straight from what sounds like a long course of study and craft honing over the course of entire careers. So I’m not going to go into the influences or what they’re trying to sound like because, honestly, I don’t hear anyone else’s voice on this record. Other than perhaps a broadly generic though interesting sort of laid back roots rock with just the right amount of funk and latin rhythms to let you know they’re taking all influences equally to make the sound precisely what they want it to be.
By far the most unique part of the Lucas Garrett experience is his vocal stylings. And just like other great songwriters whose unique voices have been relentlessly criticized but appreciated by real fans (Dylan, Will Oldham, Neil Young, etc), Garrett’s is a style that’s entirely idiosyncratic and fits within the unique and original melange of sound. Just like say (and no I’m not heralding influences here I explained that earlier) Leon Redbone or Leo Kottke, the music, the instrumentals, and the songs are inseparable from the interesting and entirely unique vocals of the songwriter. Garrett sings in a clipped, meanderingly tranquil baritone that never reaches far beyond a short range or ‘reaches’ in any way, for high notes, melody, or any other unnecessary accoutrement that will take away from the highly individual style and nothing more, nothing less than exactly what the songs require. It comes off as entirely unpretentious, comfortingly familiar, and yet completely unaffected or gimmicky. It’s breathtakingly honest yet repressed in a way that’s at times calming and at times heartbreaking, like someone trapped by trying to focus on the positive and not get emotional when everything around them may be hurtful, enraging, or just plain losing its shit. Track one proclaims: “The wires are humming/My mind is burning/The world is burning/What the hell can we do?”.
Unlike the familiar, ecclectically professional and straightforward music, the lyrics for the songs are rather opaque and quixotic. I gotta admit I’ve looked over them many a time while listening to the ep, and I can’t say for certain I’ve figured out what any of the songs are meant to say or convey, whether they’re about a person, contain a narrative, etc. But much like, say, early R.E.M. (not citing influences just comparing to other great works!), the mysterious and subjective nature of the nearly impenetrable lyrical meaning leaves the listener completely in control of how they wish to interpret the songs and make them their own.
The mysterious complexity of this record can be contrasted with the lack of experimententation with song structures, instrumentation, and song lengths. Each intricate piece of each fully formed track sounds like something you’ve heard before, sometimes in a good way but too often defined entirely by droll wit. It’s as though what’s so great about this record is what it’s hiding, but in many respects it’s hiding it too well. The songs are at times even too academic. Studied and well thought out is good, but when it’s accompanied by what sounds like a fear to explore outside of structured modalities and expected changes in tempo, chord sequences, and fretwork, it often comes together as too safe. We’d like it very much if Lucas Garrett took his songs further, as he does infrequently and never for very long when it appears the band is almost jamming, the bass lines holding a steady but creeping change, the percussion going just a little wild… but always, unfortunately, staying within well defined parameters.
This ep, like most of Lucas Garrett’s work that came before it, is enjoyable and even at times remarkable primarily in two respects; first and most obviously, in the breadth and scope of its own self-awareness. Garrett and the players are obviously well studied, well rehearsed, and very experienced in both their craft, their approaches, and the lines that always seem to converge on a central, comforting and familiar theme of rhythmic independent pop/rock. Second, the uniqueness of the vocals and the ‘roads not taken’ in the songwriting bear witness to an unmistakeable atmosphere of repression. Like a latter day Karen Carpenter, the very self-assured and solid songs, songwriting, and never too far boundaries to which they’re pushed thinly veil an underlying sense that, even though he’s trying to convey (to us? to himself? to the world at large? someone he’s trying to impress?) a sense of remorseless dignity and a professional ability to handle EVERYTHING, it’s clear that there are stronger emotional and musical elements that are hiding underneath.
And this second great strength and intrigue is also what can be so heart breaking about Garrett’s work in general. It’s as though he’s so professional and concerned with writing a perfect yet interesting pop song according to a constrictive (yet entirely useful — great careers in music have been made on much less with much less ability) set of assumptions and givens, that he doesn’t realize that the castle’s made of sand. The songs and the instruments could be much more free. As they are, they’re charmingly well written, catchy, and somewhat unique… but as they could be, as evidenced by the periods on the ep at which the songs begin to lose their bearings, but then are just as quickly brought back into the fold of a fairly straight line with well worn yet enjoyable conventions, could be as expansive as Lucas Garrett would let himself be.
Overall, a really good ep in a series/career of good to quite impressively good songs, recordings, and performances. But much like so much contemporary music that gets stuck in a certain way of being to set itself into an enjoyable or marketable niche, if it were to drop some of the rocks, it could be great.