PROMISING START Good Kids Sprouting Horns.
Sometimes, it's good to set the bar low. Even the [dog] and [pony] label press materials note the debut Good Kids Sprouting Horns album, Give up the Ghost, is "unprofessional," and the album's liner notes proudly proclaim the album was "recorded in a small bedroom of a second floor apartment in Bangor, Maine."
So, complaining about the lack of fidelity is sort of pointless. The real question is whether you can wade through murk to get something out of 10 songs buried within it.
There's cool stuff here, though. On that opener, Ryan Higgins provides nice subtle drum work, riding a tambourine and filling with the snare to create an inward-looking beat to complement songwriter and frontman Anthony Bitetti's introspective lyrics: "22 and I still think back when we were young . . . held the secrets on the tips of our tongues/But what did we know?" Higgins also does some great quick brushwork on "Woodwork," a crazy mania juxtaposed with Bitetti's lugubrious delivery: "My insides are twisting themselves into knots."
Though the vocals are often muted, or simply badly captured, there are some real moments of beauty, too, as Bitetti's growl is lifted up by the crystalline backing vocals of Jessamy Luthin, as "Tight White Lines," which moves back and forth from perfectly stripped down to a rambling, crashing full-band sound. Luthin's keyboards are startlingly pretty at times, too, like melody lines from music boxes that were never made.
Strangely enough, Bitetti's delivery isn't that different from Wesley Allen Hartley's (or Okkervil River's Will Sheff), and it wasn't that long ago that the first Cat & Mouse compilations introduced us to pretty lo-fi initial work from Dead End Armory. Do Good Kids have the same kind of potential? Absolutely. Bitetti can write like hell and his delivery drips with real emotion. Make sure you get this album if you want to be able to say you heard it first.
Sam Pfeifle can be reached firstname.lastname@example.org.
GIVE UP THE GHOST | Released by Good Kids Sprouting Horns | on [dog] and [pony] | at Arootsakoostik, in New Sweden | Aug 7 | at KahBang, in Bangor | Aug 13 and 14 | myspace.com/charlieinthebox