Monday, November 1, 2010

Quiet Company

Last week, we considered an obscure Scottish pop band in Outbox. This week brings more pop, albeit this time a bit closer to home. With a self-described style of "epic pop" is the Austin, Tex. quartet Quiet Company. And while their third release, the 6-song EP Songs for Staying In was released last May, it has only recently appeared on the New Music Tuesdays radar.

Epic pop could be best understood as the type of stuff produced by George Martin in the middle-period Beatles records like Rubber Soul and Revolver, or the under-appreciated work of fellow Texan Ben Kweller such as "Penny on a Train Track" or "Falling." This means rolling piano, tight harmonies and fun elements like glockenspiels and horns. Traversing these avenues is ...Staying In, which ratchets up the enthusiasm levels found on Quiet Company's previous releases, while establishing a thematic space of what couples do together when they don't go out (thus the title). While most of the half-dozen tracks are still guided by frontman Taylor Muse's piano work, there are some nice guitar harmonies from Muse and guitarist Tommy Blank, snippets of fuzz bass from Matt Parmenter and classic rock fills from drummer Jeff Weathers.

Leadoff number "How Do You Do It" encapsulates the collection's direction, after starting with a Strokes-style snare and 2-chord intro, jumps into full pace at the 1:50 mark, where horns flare and the beat sets in. Its perfectly enjoyable power pop and the four piece does it well. The same is true of its successor, "Things You Already Know," although a bit brighter and less dynamic at its outset, but again calls upon the horns and wall of sound for the chorus.

The approach is contrasted in the third track, "Hold My Head Above Water," which is wistful and quirky enough to have earned it a spot on the Juno soundtrack. Muse's duet with his wife Leah is charming without becoming precious and demonstrates the sincerity in his songwriting, especially given the album's recurring themes. At the same time, a few of the later tracks – "Jezebel (or A Song About My Friend and That Whore He Dated)" and "The Biblical Sense of the Word" – exhibit a less pop-focused and more indie-rock mindset, where Muse's vocals channels Neil Young's whiny wail channels through a more confident version of Rilo Kiley's Blake Sennett. Here you'll find the guitar harmonies at the midpoint of "Jezebel" and a classic rock ruckus halfway through "Biblical."

Come for: "How Do You Do It"
Stay for: "Hold My Head Above Water"
You'll be surprised by: "Jezebel (or A Song About My Friend and That Whore He Dated)"

P.S.: Previous New Music Tuesday reviewees, Ra Ra Riot, will be appearing at Washington's 9:30 Club this coming Friday. Check 'em out if you can.

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