The Front Bottoms

Rose EP

Written by: TL on 07/08/2014 17:30:50

All the way from Modest Mouse, Bright Eyes and mewithoutYou, across newer projects like Say Anything and Weatherbox, it could just be me gradually rising to a bird's eye view of the genre, but it seems the market for broken-voiced songwriters is getting somewhat crowded. At four albums in, New Jersey slacker songwriters The Front Bottoms are among the younger, yet not the newest entrants to the style, rising to some recognition with third and fourth albums "The Front Bottoms" and "Talon Of The Hawk" from 2011 and 2013 respectively, and this year the duo keeps running water over the mill with a six track EP titled "Rose", prompting us once more to consider if we're still hungry for more of this type of stuff?

Strangely "Rose" opens at its lowest with "Flying Model Rockets", which beelines predictably from start to end with little by way of interesting melodic developments to home you in on the lyrics that are always the heart of lead singer/acoustic guitarist Brian Sella's songwriting. He even seems aware of this, remarking early in "Jim Bogart" that "I would play more than just four chords if it's a song that you might like, but I am not very good, so I would practice every night", but this song quickly makes its way to a modern day variant of "You Can't Always Get What You Want" with female guest vocals flatly accepting that "Sometimes things just don't work out", before drummer Mathew Uychich halves the tempo and doubles the weight while lending his voice to a... Can you call it a gang shout if there's only two guys? Either way, the effect is clearly palpable and at track four the song makes a much stronger case for the EP's relevance.

Fortunately the supporting cast of songs that remains around "Jim Bogart" tends to have various degrees of merit as well. "Lipstick Covered Magnet" is deceptively infectious with its two refrains "I'm gonna get on my knees. Would you kick me in the face please? and later "I'm scared I'm gonna die, as lonely as I feel", and in the directly following "Twelve Feet Deep", the quirky lyricism keeps coming, with Sella tapping into stubbornly devotional romanticism as he serenades "You are water twelve feet deep, and I am boots made of concrete". Finally "Be Nice To Me" and "Awkward Conversations" round off the release, offering a refrain each to latch onto, but not really managing the same kind of start to finish consistency that Front Bottoms songs exhibit at their best.

The dilemma with the duo seems to be that they've made it their thing to play with relatively low key arrangements, sticking with instruments that can easily fit in the touring van, and with a trumpet-backed acoustic vibe this means they could probably pick up their instruments and play their stuff anywhere and any time. The downside is that when you consider Sella's talky-singy emo vocals and their limited melodic range alongside the limited expression allowed by the sparse instrumental setup, some clever thinking is required in terms of songwriting to consistently come up with ear-catching combinations. Luckily "Rose" exhibits that The Front Bottoms continue to get things right more often than not, and perhaps you could even argue that the shorter EP format helps prevent the style from sounding samey the way it could if you listened to too many such songs in a row. Whatever the case, so long as you don't expect the style to be revolutionized, you can comfortably add a handful of down-to-earth, relatable and quirky songs to your collection should you choose to acquire "Rose".

Download: Jim Bogart, Twelve Feet Deep, Lipstick Covered Magnets
For The Fans Of: Modern Baseball, Weatherbox, Say Anything

Release date 17.06.2014
Bar/None Records (Reybee)

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