In this world of Tumblrs and selfies, it’s quick and easy to display emotions. Not quite as simple to find something that stands out, rings true. One in the morning then, facing down the rest of the night, of life, should be the perfect time to run a litmus test of authenticity. Uncertainty prevails. Inoculated against expectation. Halfway through the first song, it doesn’t matter. Four songs later, music has performed that magic trick it pulls out when it’s very good. Everything, yet nothing, has changed.
“Big Deal” is one of those phrases that can mean its exact opposite depending on how you say it. That makes it a perfect name for a band that plays with aural contrasts and flirts with the paradox of speaking internal emotions out loud. Alice Costelloe and Kacey Underwood wind up the highly-strung tension between the stripped bare emotion of two individual, unadorned voices and the raw power of the holy trinity of electric guitar, bass, and drums. On “Sakura” the production values are brilliant. The music reaches out for you. The sound has texture. Not many albums do, not like this.
The gaps and spaces only add to the energy. “Seeing you fucks me up” could be the line that sums up everything. The alarming, insistent bass, and the build-up to the chorus interrupted by stillness multiplies the impact when it finally comes. These are emotions striking back. This is how it feels. A song to play to your ex. It’s irresistible. Or you could just play it to yourself. If the drums alone don’t make them yield, you’re better off without them. Either way.
The acoustic guitar introduction sounds as though you are inside the instrument; you can smell the wood, you’re being strummed. Then it all kicks off. The same way you can’t quite focus when you’re around someone you fancy, everything is a little blurry and wonderful. And you want it again. There’s the gorgeous echo of Alice Costelloe’s voice pulsing through the indecent fury of the band. They sing “boys that play guitar” and that guitar sound is why they break our hearts. Maybe there’s a hint of Françoise Hardy, and the way her songs expressed wistful regret at walking away while holding on to a thread of hope. The raw simplicity at either end makes it philosophical, rather than narcissistic.
A star, a diamond, a meteorite. Kacey Underwood sings out first, then the two join together. “You are not alone, we’re all alone.” The guitar notes wouldn’t sound out of place on a pedal steel. There’s an almost country vibe to the song, but the Duane Allman, sunlight filtering through the trees, spotlight on exquisite suffering version, the echo creating something hopelessly sad. Drowning in harmonies and textures, no rescue is necessary.
Figure It Out
This has more of an in your face punk feel, with a T.Rex flavored chorus – “Don’t know, don’t know, don’t know.” The sounds are closer together, packed in a small room. The vocal has a hint of Iggy Pop for a moment; that lost, defiant rage. The bass and drums are taut, like one of those child’s toys, the paddle with a ball on a rubber band that you have to keep snapping back constantly or you lose.
Is this it? It is, but I want more. Sakura, as it turns out, means cherry blossom, but the brief, fragile beauty of the delicate flower is linked to the symbolism of “mono no aware” – the awareness of impermanence. The ephemeral nature of things. Now I’m happy that I’m sad.
The world’s just perfect after all.