Notes & Scratches – To the Other Side

3 out of 5

Label: Rock Proper Records

Produced by: Matt DeWine

I had this witty opening about checking off that Notes & Scratches was from Nebraska and released To the Other Side in the early 2000s, and thus drawing some ribald comparison to Bright Eyes – the sound of which N&S’s lush folk-tinged instrumentation and Joshua Dumas’ shaky vocals may mimic – but the band is out of Chicago, and the release was 2009, and Dumas has much more control over his warble than Oberst (and is, ahem, a better lyricist to boot), so let’s give it up for snap judgments, people.

Because that’s what happened: I heard poetic lyrics, fuzzy production, scratchy-throat singing, and I said “not on my Zune, mama.”  Thankfully, I was too lazy to shut it off, and the EP ran on repeat several times over the course of an hour.

See above: this isn’t Bright eyes, and it’s pretty good!  I’d still say it falls into the Saddle Creek influence – there’s a ghost of emo emotionality floating around throughout, although moreso as a sense of reminiscence than straight up sadness – but when later tracks rope in horns alongside the strings and warm bass, there’s an Elephant 6 vibe in there too.  Alas, as is the case when too many “sounds like”s come to mind, Notes & Scratches don’t really emerge with their own sound, and even amidst the six tracks there are some rather repetitive themes.

The group seems to have come and gone after a few years, which is too bad, as there was obviously a fair amount of skill there, just needing time to simmer together to present something fully cooked.  However, it does seem the various members went off to other groups, so perhaps they were each able to achieve that elsewhere.