The Lovely Sparrows seem to be another (potentially) great band that’s taking the one-toe-in-the-water-at-a-time approach to recording. If one listen to the Pulling up Floors EP doesn’t have you praying for full immersion, five or six just might. In 19 too-fast, ramshackle minutes, the Sparrows will reveal little to even the most attentive listener. Instruments careen off of one another in what amounts to a feast of tension and a famine of release. It’s a lot like listening to good jazz, in that there’s always the temptation to zero in on one instrument, at least until another one breaks your concentration. In other words, while it’s awfully pretty and absorbing, don’t look for it to calm you down. Even the constantly present fingerstyle acoustic guitar—and if there’s a stereotypically mellower instrument I have yet to hear it—doesn’t have its usual effect when surrounded by thrashing drums-and-percussion and, of all things, a flute. If there was one thing that truly surprised me about the Lovely Sparrows, it was that flute, which shows up early and often and turns “Chemicals Change” into a three-minute creep-out, emitting the kind of notes that fall squarely into the realm of the hypnotic. Unsettling, mysterious, and ultimately satisfying stuff. “Your Flowers will Bloom” is less frightening, and features the first great (misheard?) line of 2007: “Smooth jazz lovers reveal themselves today.” Who cares what that means? I sure don’t, mostly because I was happy to (I think) clearly discern any lyric I could. The vocals aren’t pushed up front in the mix, and sometimes sound like they’re trying to free themselves from the wall of percussion using nothing but a butter knife. But that’s quite alright, as such a democratic mix works in favor of the overall uneasy mood of the disc. Really, the only time the Lovely Sparrows hint at a familiar/comfortable melody is on “The War Has Seen the Best of Me”, which seems to borrow from “Auld Lang Syne” (or maybe it’s just the season), but then they alter the damn thing so it becomes yet another somewhat vague element of Pulling Up Floors. But hey, they’re good at that sort of thing. Hopefully we’ll soon find out if they can make it work for a full-length album.
// Notes from the Road
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