Have you ever had a band you’ve really, really liked and followed for years that practically no one in the world (or at least your immediate circle of friends) pays any attention to? One of those bands you think is super great, and its new CD comes out and you rave about it to all of your friends? You tell your pals, “It’s like 10 times better than the last album!” And your friends just give a puzzled stare in response because they never heard the last album, and they couldn’t give a damn about this new album…you know what I’m talking about, right?
Well, New Sweet Breath is one of those bands for me. Which means reviewing New Sweet Breath’s newest recording—Acceleration & Distortion—is going to be a bitch. Because you don’t give a damn about it. But you should. And here’s why:
New Sweet Breath used to sound like Superchunk, but punkier and poppier, and that’s why I got into it years ago. But New Sweet Breath has its own sound now, and it’s a good one, and you’ll probably like it. New Sweet Breath is less of a band now and more of a vehicle for frontman Graig Markel, who still writes songs with a ‘Chunk influence, except after a few listens you can tell it’s him and you think, “Hey, this sounds like a Graig Markel song,” rather than, “Hey, this sounds like somebody trying to write a Mac McCaughan song.” A Graig Markel song sounds like modern-day indie pop blended with ‘80s D.C. hardcore, all set to varying tempos and emotions, going from bombastic to beautiful and back in a matter of seconds. It’s good stuff. And if you’re into Superchunk or Archers of Loaf or Pavement or any of those other names that are a million times more recognizable than New Sweet Breath, you should pay attention.
But you’re probably not paying attention, because this is still New Sweet Breath, so I’ve got to sell it some more. On albums past, New Sweet Breath would mix a handful of killer singles with a handful of filler, making you wish the recording had been an EP. But this time around, New Sweet Breath brings nothing which screams “mix tape,” but rather a collection of very good-to-excellent recordings which, when added up, as a whole are more rewarding than as the sum of the parts. Unfortunately, this time around the whole is the EP wished for in the past with nary a bad track, and you’re left wanting an LP instead of just six songs. But that’s cool. Interestingly, the first thing that pops into your head upon pressing “play” is that this sounds like the soundtrack to a nighttime drive, and then the EP closes with “Twilight Exit,” which features a nighttime drive chorus of “Roll the windows and drive, there’s things outside that I don’t want to fight.” And along the way there’s sexy, soulful post-punk meets Afghan Whigs (“The Light Is Green”) and optimistic pop that breeds Styx with tape loops (“New Disease”), which, as bad as it comes off in print—I know, Styx—sounds really good on a stereo. And there’s three other really good tracks, too.
So that’s the scoop on New Sweet Breath. Thank you if you’ve made it this far through the review, because chances are you weren’t too interested in the band when you started it, as no one else seems to bat an eyelash when I drop New Sweet Breath’s name. And if you’ve read this whole review then hopefully you’ll heed my advice and go pick Acceleration & Distortion up—because as happy as I am that now you’ve heard of New Sweet Breath, I’ll be a whole lot happer if you’ve actually gotten to hear them.
// Notes from the Road
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