5 out of 5
Label: Chemikal Underground
Produced by: Radar Bros. (?)
I know I’m biased: Radar Bros. The Singing Hatchet was my first album from the band, and it appeared on Dave Sardy’s See Thru Broadcasting label – the reason I purchased it – which automatically gave it bona fides and listen-to-it-again-and-again attention. But to a boy totally going through a Vivadixiesubmarinetransmissionpilot Sparklehorse phase, the album was ideal, picking up on a similar style of snarky sadness and then glossing it up with Jim Putnam’s particular form of slocore, glittery Americana. This was also Putnam’s half-step toward the beginning of a more “accessible” sound with And the Surrounding Mountains, taking the very bleak, minimal approach of their debut and adding more head-bobby sway, but not yet allowing himself a full smile.
Anyhow, this isn’t a review of The Singing Hatchet – it’s a review of single Shoveling Sons, taking an excellent cut from that disc, and backing it up with two perfect B-sides. Hatchet, like all RB albums, new or old, has a slow-roll approach that can be considered one of (to fans like me) its few downsides: if you’re not listening very closely, you might say much of the material sounds similar, and / or shifts in the sound are slow to arrive. Shoveling Sons boils such shifts down to its three songs: the usual RB casual shuffle of the title track; the slightly more angular No One Left; and the delicate and sedate To Carry Me Home. Each song is backed up by Jim’s strange brew of slightly ominous phrasings, and sudden hits-the-gut sentences that feel so perfectly expressive of loneliness…
I’d say any Radar Bros. album is pretty indicative of their sound; the Shoveling Sons single is a nice little microcosm of its variations, though, and is definitely a must-addition if The Singing Hatchet is a preferred disc from the band’s catalogue.