Not to be confused with the Trophy Wife out of DC/philly, Trophy Wife from Murfreesboro, TN, just outside of Nashville sent their latest single on Private Label Industries to me the other day, and I should be used to a band not ever having anything thematically to do with the place they currently reside except for this description:
... Murfreesboro's Trophy Wife have managed to forge their own brand of dark pop music seemingly inspired by the haunting specter of the many Civil War era cemeteries and battlefields surrounding them.It's all relative...here I am thinking about stereotypical Nashville and country music, and turns out it was the civil war graveyard down the street influencing this. I think the same is true about a band in Brooklyn, you can imagine it's all about fixie bikes and smoking cigarettes, but it turns out they like going down to the East River and watching the sunset. One minute I think geography has everything to do with a band and the next, nothing.
The A-Side first track, 'Widows', begins like a dark night in a graveyard, half talking, low whispering voices, with barely a melody, bizarre instrumentation like xylophones. Mostly a terrible dream, but the echo-y, ethereal, vocals make the whole thing sound like mythical alien harpies trying to imitate the human construct of music, they've heard a few songs, but never sang or played an instrument, and it follows the rules just barely.
God bless this Pocahaunted feel, it's completely improv sounding, they have an overall vision and then play loosely within that structure, mostly haunting and nightmarish, it creeps louder and louder. A '70s horror movie moment, a psychological one, fucking with your head.
'Light Socket' is even more minimal, it sounds like plinking wine glasses, and then a violin makes an appearance, but the most puzzling is the chorus 'Somebody jizzed in a light socket?' Yes, that's what they're saying.
Their sound is new wave and primitive but mostly frightening, due to the high echo harmonies that contrast so completely with a weird bare bones structure that isn't trying to be pleasant at all. It's exciting when something comes so far out of left field so confidently like this. There's no clue how they arrived here, there aren't any references left to give it away. Am I witnessing some secret seance?
This reminds me of a folk/organic These are Powers, her similar lone, almost terrifying vocal, the tribal, primitive rhythms....or lack of them alltogether.
The B-side, 'Aunt Palatka' has a raw, messy out of tune guitar jarring you out of the distant woodwind melody, they're both equally in their own compositionally abstract worlds. It's weird how I start to focus on the sound of the crackles and pops of the vinyl, like Gastr Del Sol, it's heavily composed and deliberate. Then the vocalizations start, mournful howling, buried under echo. I think that can be the most compelling thing about the female voice is that ability to be singing lyrics, but in such a high register, they sound abstracted. I know they're forming words but you can't understand them.
'In the Water' is a single tambourine and a harmonized melody. That was the most shocking thing about Gastr Del sol at the time, this lack of instrumentation when everyone else was piling it on, layers of distortion, these guys were making very deliberate weirdo music...it's made out of different instruments but that sensibility is present. This builds up to a tom fueled attack while the four members harmonize about the Mexican border. It's the weirdest avant garde beach boys inspired cover you've ever heard. It has to be near impossible to recreate this accurately, this must be a rough sketch for a long conceptual piece about dread. It's honestly hard to get through numerous listens because there's just so little to hold onto, more importantly, like a good scare, everything starts to look sinister around you, the shadows, some wind outside...it wasn't like that a few minutes ago. This is powerful and challenging, exactly something I would expect from the NNF label, people pushing boundaries and this does just that.
PLI is made up of the members of Trophy Wife and if this is any indication here's hoping they have some like minded friends up for a seven inch. That double LP comp of bands is probably an amazing place to start.
This single is housed in an equally obscure, nicely printed 2 color silkscreen on chipboard. As little information as the record itself, belying any frame of reference, anything that you might mistake for a trend or fad, as if there was any danger of that. Really a bizarre unique sound which should be played at 33, or maybe not.