Art + Fashion + Music + Culture
Art + Fashion + Music + Culture
From the opening moments of this EP, there’s a charming sense of transparency going on here – the album’s opening track, “Charlie Farmer”, opens with some meandering, late-night studio conversation that, through its ethereal chorus of disembodied voices, introduces us with a certain intimacy – reserved normally between family members, between bandmates – and invites us to join in, to be a part of it.
And then this high definition, excitedly lo-fi album begins in earnest – a slow, distant guitar crescendos glacially as each member comes in, transitioning from the conversational, almost to the elegiac – “started talking ‘bout back when you were here / now you’re gone so i’ll miss you this year”. The refrain elevates, electricity kicks in, harmonies rise and with all of this comes this manic energy that grows and grows and just explodes into this monstrous beam of optimism that’s been lurking in the background the whole time. What started as a cutesy croon becomes a head smashing rocker with the lead guitar player, Drew Kee’s ascendant, rock ballad shredding.
The next track, “Not Fair”, maintains this radiant positivity into a nice loungey, swinging jam that feels like the perfect opening tune for a swanky, uptown residency jazz group – fun, unobtrusive, and delightedly poppy. What’s not to like? In this track, we get a great look at eponymous frontman, Charlie “Springtime” Debolt, and both his vocal range and breadth of play styles: anything from sympathetic crooner to desperate, impassioned howler.
There’s a good deal of production evident in this album, beyond the cheeky intrusions of studio chatter. A keyboard player joined the band for this recording, and whether it’s the rare occasion that they play with keys live, or in this preserved time capsule of one unrepeatable session, it’s a real treat. So much sonic depth is added to the overall tone of the band, and in this track in particular, the organ-esque setting adds another layer to that jazzy club vibe. We close out with a final roar from Charlie as the guitar sweeps in, this time with an understated, almost proggy screecher, wetting our lips with the desire for more.
“Cold Feet” begins quietly, subdued, returning to that melancholy tone, as if to remind us that this band is more than the next pop punk phenom – and that’s exactly what the roaring chorus of this song achieves. Zach Walker’s bass gets a chance to really shine here, with a more prominent, groovy undercurrent that drives this jam – alongside the spacey synth, the classic bluesy shrieking of the guitar, and drums that somehow manage to drive and maintain this rampant, desperate sense of pent-up energy and emotion. We hear one last “and I’ll fall”, and then the song delves into a cocktail-like jam of various moving parts, every instrument shining, before abruptly moving on to our fourth track, “Disagree”, which starts of innocently enough, but quickly drops the facade an chimes in with the by-now unforgettable tones of what can only be our lead guitarist laying down the rock-inspired, finger-licking hymns we’ve come to worship. Throw a little bit of Debolt’s throaty, fed-up screams, and they’re totally right
Kee comes in a bit fuzzier, thrashier, sharing with us another side of his musical influences. The song devolves into rhythmic chaos, a party of people dancing and laughing in perfect unison. The song moves erratically from fierce jam, to a staccato breakdown, and a final, understated arpeggio to cool us down.
But we don’t get much time to relax, because “15 Seconds of Fame” cuts in quickly with a nice funky bass groove by Walker, a nice little guitar lick, and eventually, Debolt’s vocals with a velvet-smooth transition between smoky screams and gorgeous falsetto.
The moment that “In Dependence” kicks off – one of our personal favorite tracks – we breathe a sigh of triumphant relief: finally! It’s Erin Devany’s chance to shine! Throughout the EP, we’ve delighted in her harmonies, her too-brief moments of carrying a chorus or holding down a verse. This track truly begins in her possession, and so do we – with haunting, enthralling vocals, backed only by a minimalist, funerary dirge, it’s something to dig on, we’re gravely sure of that. Devany teases at something behind the melancholic reserve in her singing with a little burst of fire, but she holds back, building the tension, keeping us hooked, waiting for that climactic catharsis that this song promises but withholds till the very end. “Stop / what is that sound?” It still holds back from a full delivery, edges us up to the very precipice with violent vocal exultations that only Debolt can make seem held-back. This is a song that, much like its lyrics, refuses to be dependent on our expectations. It is constant subversion, constant builds that keep promising a next-day delivery, only to delay, again and again, beautifully, the cheap, ascending ballad jam that we all expect.
It ends in what feels like a party, a celebration – and the vocals that kick off our final track sound almost like New Year’s noisemakers: bird-like, goofy proclamations of the fun this band has, and will have. And that’s what “Hang In There” achieves perfectly, in its parting message. A sense of ragged optimism, of manic glee, smiling in the face of raw emotions and still-festering wounds that the lyrics, the tone, confess to. That, if nothing else, is the truly endearing factor of this album: not only are we invited into this intimate corner of a handful of people’s lives and expressions, but we are left only with a sense of hope, of positivity, of brighter days ahead; nothing in the way of pain or sadness.
The guitar comes in relaxed, deliberate – as if this album were a perfectly contained live set, and the members were tired but riding the endorphins to that last, thank god, song. Devany jumps in once again, with solid, driving singing that maintains the pulse of this quickly moving track. Springtime himself returns to the frontlines once again, accompanied by that charming theremin-style setting on the keys, finding his vocal foothold quickly as he screams wordlessly into the chorus. That’s something else beautiful about this closing track: beyond the short verses, this song eschews dialogue
We get one final glimpse into that liminal space where this song was created with a final soundbyte from the recording session. It leaves us with this cyclical, recursive sense: that somewhere, in some other time, the band is still picking and choosing tracks, recording and re-recording, and that we have only peeked through the glass for a moment, peering upon one instance, one possibility, among infinite possibilities; that, in witnessing this raw expression of emotion, this open-doored intimacy, to see it actually complete and recorded, we have landed in the best of all possible worlds, the one where the band decided
“I’m constantly thinking of ways to be closer to you, but all I have is my phone.”
Words // Garrett Smith – Photos // Ellie Alonzo & Garrett Smith Alright y’all – it’s finally that time to bid farewell to Shaky Knees once and for all – for this year, at least. Before we go, though, we have one last, grand finale of a day to recap
Words // Garrett Smith – Photos // Ellie Alonzo & Garrett Smith We hope you’re rested and ready for a great weekend ahead – both the weekends in your own lives, and the one we’re about to relive at Shaky Knees 2018. Yesterday was amazing, but let’s move past it,