RIYLAndrew Jackson Jihad
Murder by Death
Tracklist01. Towering Tree
02. A Sharp Minor Suicide
03. Prince Edward County Dress
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Low Hanging Lights are a Canadian “lounge punk” trio, consisting of Ian Boos, Dillon Spencer, and Alex Grantham. If you’ll remember, I actually gave Grantham’s solo debut When I Was a Boy a pretty bristling 2.5. It was the kind of album that I wanted to like more, but it kept pushing me away. For Low Hanging Lights’ debut EP, Grantham and Co. have plucked two of three songs from When I Was a Boy, so for me, Small Talk has been like comparing the rough draft to the revision, and the difference is tangible.
The redux of “Towering Tree” kicks off Small Talk, and I sort of wish it didn’t, because Grantham delivers with a formidable snarl over what starts out as a quiet and pensive couple of verses. The snarl is not first impression material, though as the song fills out and the instruments start to swell over his voice, it fits the aesthetic much better. Now, the song itself is a remarkable step up, complete with a rich chorus with crashing drums and a jangly organ that rings out shambling and loose, deliciously messy. Grantham has also reigned in his “Nevermind, sit down...” sections to be less stark and militaristic. Yeah, the effect is gone, but it’s much nicer to listen to. “Towering Tree” ends brash and rowdy and deconstructed, and I wonder if it would make a nice closing track on Small Talk instead.
“A Sharp Minor Suicide” follows, the second revised track from Grantham’s solo work, a dramatic and brooding folk tune with deep bass and tingling percussion. I’d probably start Small Talk here. The song’s got a great pulse, and the 10-second held note during, “Remove your face!” marks the chorus pretty distinctly. If Grantham and Co. want their listeners’ attention, after that they probably have it. And once the track kicks into its second gear at the halfway point, any stragglers will be hooked. Up the tempo, enter horns, driving guitar, and a long, discordant breakdown, and you’ve got the makings of the great stuff Murder by Death have forgotten how to write on their more recent efforts.
The relaxed, piano-laden ballad “Prince Edward County Dress” closes Small Talk. Despite it being (as far as I can tell) an original Low Hanging Lights song, I honestly don’t have nearly as much to say about it. It’s pleasant, makes good use of several instruments like it’s chamber folk, but it doesn’t have the same sense of progression and verve that really spark the first two tracks. It’s like listening to Beirut through a funhouse mirror, but the song is entirely content to be the same for four minutes.
I am, however, incredibly excited by Small Talk. I’ve gotten to experience a few tracks I really wanted to like develop into a few tracks I genuinely do like, and the folk/punk/indie/everything direction in which Low Hanging Lights are taking their music is plowing some fresh, yet familiar musical ground. If this EP is any proper indication of what’s to come, Low Hanging Lights are only going to get brighter.