They had a lead singer who’s quivering voice was a strange mix of Stuart Staples of Tindersticks, Cat Stevens and Tricky, a bass player/guitarist who looked like Jason from Saddle Creek, a drummer who looks like James Cameron, a second guitarist who looked like he belonged in Gang of Four circa 1981, a keyboardist who struggled to balance a tower of keyboard on his lap. Each song had something interesting and unique woven within its arrangement. You could argue that they’re progressive, but you’d probably lose the argument to someone who insists that they’re angular traditionalist indie miracle workers. I fancy them as straight-on purist songwriters who aren’t afraid to inflict layers and layers of rhythms into the center of any song. Tim Putnam has a subtle quality that isn’t coy or treacle, Jay Clarke’s keyboards are assertive, adding a broken-hearted counter that, at times, reminds me of Vince Guaraldi in their tonal range. Neither Putnam nor the second guitarist (whose name doesn’t seem to appear on the new CD’s liner notes) ever seem satisfied with a run-of-the-mill rock guitar approach. Highlights included the guitar counter on “Little Green” (played by bassist Rob Oberdorfer) that cut-syncopated against the Putnam’s vocals. Another was the lovely, amber “Hills Above,” that featured a gorgeous chiming piano line and Putnam singing broken “When I left home they said you’re a helluva disaster / So I moved fast but disaster moved faster…” This was special. Too bad nobody saw it.
It’s a shame that there were only about 25 people on hand to see one of the coolest bands to come through town, playing some of the coolest music I’ve heard in a long time. It’s depressing to hear someone pull out an amazing chord progression and then look back at an empty room. It seems to be happening a lot lately (Last week’s remarkable Dios Malos show comes to mind). Blame it on the holiday or the costume party that was going on upstairs. Blame it on the sheer volume of indie shows that have come through here in the past month. Or blame it on the scene’s unwillingness to take a risk on a band they just don’t know much about. At least I got to see and hear it.
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