Thursday, July 28, 2011

Grass Widow on HLR Records

Grass Widow has gone and upstarted their own label, HLR Records and what better debut single to kick off their catalog their very own Milo Minute single which features 2 covers on the B-Side. I keep reading this is the first in a series? Whether or not that means other bands are going to be doing this covers on the B-Side thing or they plan to run the label for a limited number of releases is unclear. I'm happy to see these guys going the Wild World direction and curating releases they are personally invested in. I trust them already.

A-Side's "Milo Minute" showcases yet again their excellent focus on their esoteric harmonies and off kilter layers of rhythms getting in and out of sync of each other. These complex instrumental patterns come off as effortless and loose. Unbelievably, a simple guitar melody for little more than a measure, is repeated in the bassline while the original guitar line takes off on it's own route. They sing over and under one another in some kind of vocal gymnastics, packed with enough intricate melodies for a slew of catchy choruses, but they don't have time or too much talent to let any one of them have a minute to relax. They keep a nervous energy stretched taught throughout their songwriting, stuck walking that tightrope of changes. Just when you start to get some kind of handle on the patterns, and the vocal patchwork, the track has ended and you have to put the needle back at the beginning. Even Lillian Maring on drums is constantly working her own unsettling fills and post rhythms against the echoing back and forth guitar and bass structure. They encourage this kind of under the microscope dissection, charting a new mathy pop. Even more amazing the three of them vocally don't just harmonize well, like some Beach Boys track, but add another entirely different kind of complexity to that equation, swinging back and forth between completely independent lines of verse to meet back up again in different pitches. This track continues their idiosyncratic line of thought, and I'm up for another full length.

The B-Side covers start out with "Time Keeps Time" from the Neo Boys, an all-female Portland band I was completely oblivious of, Grass Widow definitely awknowledging not only a musical influence but even the the politics of being a girl group...which I'm sure they hate to be marginalized with riot grrrl categorizations, and terms like 'girl group', but I guess we haven't moved past that kind of thing yet. Maybe their saying 'here we are back in the early '80s again, what's really changed?' It's a great cover, their styles are similar in a lot of subtle ways. I don't know the original, but they've made me want to track it down.

Next up a cover of a Wire track "Mannequin", which having been only credited to 4 names, (I don't know their names? Pathetic) and until the end chorus, I had no idea what track this was, the fact they could take this song I'm so familiar with and change it, not in an overtly obnoxious change for changes sake way, is really an achievement. The liner notes say it was recorded in their rehearsal space, which doesn't sound like it all. They take the sort of loose rock and roll sound from the original and stiffen it up with all sorts of interweaving melodies, and of course harmonies. It's really a completely new arrangement, respecting the source material.

This second side is completely risky, you would think, but they come out looking better than ever, nodding to those offbeat references and making them their own.

Go get it from Grass Widow directly.
I even got a pin a week later with a note thanking me for preordering.
See if you get that with any other label.

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