For the life of me, I can’t place an era or genre for the kick-off track, “Fleur de Lis”, to Slow Dazzle’s EP, The View from the Floor. It conjures both 1960s country and shoegazing. It belongs in a typically bizarre David Lynch dinner party scene as much as it does to John Sayles and his study of the boring details of living. Shannon McArdle sings on the song, “I want to know when these ashes blow away” and I guess I’ll just have to follow her lead. I’m letting preconceptions go and will just do my best to describe the wonderful music therein.
Slow Dazzle is McArdle and fellow Mendoza Line member Timothy Bracy (engineer Peter Langland-Hassan contributed quite a bit, also). Where the Mendoza Line court the intellectual singer-songwriter fans, Slow Dazzle is an example of why it can be great to see members of a band you admire go and try their own thing. Slow Dazzle takes all of the good parts of the Mendoza Line, gets rid of the sloppiness, and then adds a bunch more crafting (and genre-hopping) to create an eight-song EP that only leaves the listener waiting for the full-length.
What these eight songs offer is musical precision and heart. Slow Dazzle take its cues from pop (read: popular) songs and don’t waste a second of space in offering its version of what should be modern radio classics. This is all Elvis Costello, Joe Jackson, and Patsy Cline. And then it’s more: a touch of electro-pop, an out-of-tune guitar solo. McArdle’s voice is one of the warmest around; Timothy Bracy knows just what syllables to drop low on, leaving the listener with a sense of injustice always around the corner. It’s a CD that’s hard to shut off once it starts.
It can be argued that a couple of songs sound similar (“The Prosecution Rests” and “Now or Never or Later” are kissing cousins) but the exceptional melodies work to negate too much grumbling. Each song is a story that captures loss and chains loosening but not yet gone—human frailty, in other words. As always, it is a thing of sadness and of beauty. As McArdle so aptly sings on “Anthem”, “There is a crack, a crack in everything / That’s how the light gets in”.