21 April 2011

2010: Hot Molasses, How to Dress Well

Hot Molasses
Molassachusetts EP

Released January 2010 (available on Band Camp)

Short Notes: Scrappy Boston pop outfit put out a formative EP.

Lin: B+
First off, I ought to note that both Brandon and I are friends with a few members of this band -- I was in Boston at the end of March of the release of their newest EP and slept on one of their couches, after all -- so we're probably a little biased. Of course, this means that my grade up there is complete hogwash, as it's either too high (since I have a stake in the band) or too low (as I'm compensating).

That out of the way, I do actually really enjoy this 14 minute EP. At five songs, it goes by way too quickly, but with a surprising amount of variety in the sound (having three different vocalists will do that), though all of it is rooted in some good power pop. My favorite track here -- "Blank Verse" -- is perhaps the poppiest track on the album, but has a slight edge to it with a few more-aggressive guitar figures. The opener, "The Chief", nominally about Robert Parrish, has a similar sort of feel too it. The hardest rocking "Mendoza Line" sounds a bit out of place, but the EP is better off for including it. "Sig Uglies" is probably the best written thing here: I love the lyrics and the sentiment, though I find the music a bit less interesting than the others. Rounding out the list is "A Little Wasted," with just a touch of country to spice things up.

You can download this EP (and the new one, too) from hotmolasses.bandcamp.com. This, you should do.

Brandon: B+
It’s hard to review your friends’ music, but I’ve known Andre and Ben for a long time, and I’m far more interested in promoting this quirky little Bostonian pop group than I am in offering a traditional review. In fact, that this EP even gets a grade (let alone one of B+) is largely to allow me to direct you to the superior (and newer) HoMo EP, Frankly, which was released last month.

Without going into a fawning dissection of each song, I’ll tell you that while the group started some years ago playing overtly alt. country rockers, this record, which features no less than three lead singers, is mostly varied pop numbers (some power, some mid-tempo) with a good bit of guitar twang on the margins. “Sig Uglies,” my favorite, is a clever take on the dilemma faced by most post-college urban twentysomethings trying to figure out relationships during an era of steady economic decline among that demographic (which is to say, in an era in which most such folks can’t afford to live alone in the city). All the songs have the pleasant lofi vocal buzz/clean guitar line feel of music recorded by the inexperienced and frugal (which fails to capture the epic-ness of the HoMo live show), but each has its own pop charms. Well worth your time (and Frankly is even better, recorded para-professionally and with stronger-still songwriting and singing).

How To Dress Well
Love Remains

Released on October 19, 2010 (Lefse)

Short Notes: R&B slow jams, meet drone.

Brandon: B-
One of my strongest memories from college was a writing assignment I completed as part of my training for working in the colleges’s writing center, in which we were to incorporate a number of new words into a poem or short essay. The only of the words I remember was “palimpsest,” which might be defined as the faint hint of text of image left on a medium after it has been erased or cleared. Later that year, my girlfriend was working on a painting that incorporated lines of verse partially obscured by color and texture, leaving the impression of text that had been partially obscured in an effort to re-use a canvas (at least, to my eyes). This record is like a musical palimpsest, with the almost poppy soul of songs like “My Body” and “You Won’t Need Me Where I’m Goin’” (my favorites) so obscured by drone-y fuzz, digital manipulation, and whatever other slings and arrows have been thrown at these tracks that they leave the impression of beautiful songs occasionally popping their heads up out of the white noise. It’s an interesting conceit, and it succeeds about as much as it fails here. There’s some real moments of joy here, but they are rarely and inconsistently maintained.

Lin: C
First off, this is like the Ariel Pink album reviewed earlier but significantly more subdued. That makes it slightly more to my liking, as the murkiness brings it closer to an ambient/drone style, which I'm a growing fan of. As such, it's the poppier moments that fail for me, as it's like listening to the radio with your head under water. To make matters worse, I had to check the bitrates on the files I downloaded to make sure I didn't get 32 kbps instead of 320 kbps. There's always the possibility that the files I got are simply corrupted, but the sound quality here is horrendous, in a one-man black metal band sort of way. Turns out it's intentional, probably. Man, I just don't get it.

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