erasing clouds

Singles and EPs

by dave heaton

Gregg Porter, Final Final EP (Broken Sparrow)

Gregg Porter’s Final Final EP has a remarkably crisp, spare sound which makes it sound like he’s up in a cabin in the woods somewhere, where the sound of a man singing isn’t drowned out by anything. It’s not just him singing, though. There’s a warm atmosphere wrapped around him, carefully but surely, with cello, piano, gently strummed guitars, and more. Xylophone and vibraphone are played, even lap steel; and four backing vocalists chime in, adding to the warmth and lending the songs eternal, universal qualities. The same done by an attention to silence, near-silence, and a sense of space. Porter’s songs themselves are friendly country-folk ballads, happy or sad, with a touch of humor, a touch of longing (“oh won’t you call me up tonight,” he starts on the first track), some good old-fashioned nervousness, and the ghost presence of the big questions of life and death, perfect for pondering out in the lonesome wilderness.

The Besties, “Bone Valley Deposit” 7” (Hugpatch)

This second Besties 7” on Hugpatch is as solid as the first, last year’s “Rod ‘n’ Reel”, which got so much play on my turntable that I almost forget to write about it, I just took it for granted. The A-side here, “Bone Valley Deposit” is a rambunctious song that’s sweet inside, which is how the Besties roll. They play cutesy pop songs with a bit of a punk spirit. In this song – a tale about hometowns and how they change, with vivid images of smokestacks, swamp cabbage and empty mines – the apex comes when the line “I’ll keep it up till the day turns night” comes around a third time and is shouted out with the spirit a line like that deserves. The B-side “Man Vs. Wild” is less raucous, but with an even more fetching melody, one of those that circles around in your head and just gains something special for it. It’s a camping song, a wilderness song, as the title implies, though the last lines show it be just as much about a missed chance for love, making the ‘ba-ba’ backing vocals oh so appropriate.

Pocketbooks, Waking Up EP (Make Do and Mend)

”Wake Me Up”, the A-side if you will of this EP from the UK indie-pop group Pocketbooks, starts out sounding casually pretty, like a lark, but picks up steam as it goes. As Emma Hall (latr joined by Andy Hudson) sings pleasantly about plans and non-plans, and the passing of time, the band plays with more and more force and determination. By the end it’s just about a rock song, albeit one with a serious Belle & Sebastian/’60s tilt. That’s the general leaning of the band, stylistically, which is no shame from my perspective. It’s a style that suits pretty pop melodies and charming lyrics about life and love, both of which Pocketbooks have plenty of across even just these four songs. It also helps their effort that the band is tight, and make their music sturdier than snappy little songs like these are often expected to be. The EP is bookended by especially robust songs, the second of which, “Don’t Stop”, starts with the lyric “Oh I’m tired / I’m tired of all this introspection”, while the guitars ring out. Ultimately the Waking You Up EP breezes by, but not without leaving a great impression.

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