“Can you guys do me a favor?”
“Can you just play one wrong note when you perform? Just one?”
This was overheard after one of Dots Not Feather’s short, finely manicured sets at Picasso’s Coffee House on Main Street Saint Charles, MO. It’s a telling observation: In the shambolic forest of beards and flannel that pervades non-traditional folk music, DNF is the young suitor who comes to the Harvest Festival in a dapper tailored suit, shorn locks, and straight-razored with a carnation pinned to its lapel. This is handsome music, and they’re not afraid to show it.
I tend to gravitate toward bands who drench their Americana in a dense wash of sadness, alcohol, and experimentation. There are no punk roots betraying the dye here- this is hair of a different color. A meticulous sense of craft illuminates the EP which brings to mind, of all bands, Sugar-era Aloha. They also share the aforementioned band’s love for jazz and unorthodox instrumentation, utilizing a synthesizer for the low-end when most bands of this certain milieu would’ve gone for an upright bass. Ravi Raghuram’s buoyant chops contrast brightly with the raw acoustics, adding a veneer to the sound that helps make it more accessible and thoroughly modern. There’s no sense of staunch of old-timey sensibility to these recordings.The songwriting evokes a romantic quality that Nickel Creek radiated in their pop detours so vibrantly early in their career. No time is wasted in setting the mood, as Ryan Meyers comes at you all coy and charming on the opening title track; A golden thread runs through his voice as he intones pensively about writing of Paris and waiting for you to come back to bed. The band passionately swings along to some entirely welcome trumpet contributions, and sets a nice precedent for the proceedings: No track on here bears any ugliness or cynicism, musically or thematically. Even when a melancholic streak pops up occasionally (as it does on “Bug Bites” and “Foreign Shores”) it’s accompanied by the most gorgeous music I’ve heard in a long time.
The record’s finest moment, “Shoes On Powerlines”, is not a meditative piece on urban violence as it’s evocative title suggests. Rather, it’s a perfect metaphor for a heart bursting with desire, hanging by a thread desperately to stay in a potential suitor’s longing gaze. That melancholic underbelly reveals itself in the way it twists your stomach in knots, as Katy Durrwachter wraps her scarlet voice around a Christian name in the most satisfying way possible.
A Thousand Novels (their debut, which is also available on their Bandcamp site) was a nice first impression of the band, but the few changes that differentiate this record from their last elevate them considerably. First, they’ve struck a truly wonderful balance between each member’s distinctive voice (working separately on lead vocals and in accompaniment). The joy they receive from bending their voices in unison is startlingly tangible. The most significant change, however, is the addition of Johnathan Goldstein on percussion. The fluidity and precision in which he drives the pulse of the songs perfectly accents Stephen Baier’s skillful (ahem, masterful) guitar & banjo contributions. It’s so effective you’ll no doubt find it truly merits the repeated listens you bestow upon it (i.e. “Come Back to Bed”, Foreign Shores”).
Being that bile, white noise, and amateurship have evolved, in many cases, from incidental qualities to aesthetic choices, it’s refreshing to hear a band that revels in hitting the right notes at the right time. Come Back to Bed is a warm, pleasurable soundtrack to orange-hued sunset. And who wouldn’t want to bask in that as long as possible?