WHAT IF? The band, on stage.
If you haven't been introduced to the jangledy indie pop of If and It yet, their show July 20 at the Dirigimus Cooperative offers you opportunity to drink from the virtual firehose. There they'll celebrate the release of two full-length records they've put out within about six weeks of one another: Sparkly Gold and Bleeding Moon. They represent the fifth and sixth releases for frontman and songwriter Evan Parker under the If and It moniker, though just the fourth as a "band," and the third with the current lineup featuring Chris DiBiasio on drums and Tim Alan Walker on bass and some keys.
The two records are somewhat different animals, though. Gold was a year in the making with producer Ron Harrity, who throws in some organ work and the distinctive sound of his Forest City Studios. Moon they banged out in a weekend at a house in Gray, doing all the recording and production themselves, and leaving just the mastering for Harrity.
Counter-intuitively, though, it's Moon that sounds more "studio," in some ways. It's more immediate in the headphones, with the vocals more present and a greater general shine to the whole endeavor. But that could be the songwriting, too. While Gold is more of a slow burn, notable often for the governor they put on themselves, Moon sees the band getting more aggressive and moving toward straight rock and roll, leaving a listener presented with both records at the same time an experience that manages to avoid too much redundancy.
There are similarities, of course. If you don't like it when the guitarist moves through the song's chords by picking single strings from the low E up to the high E and back again, this band ain't for you. Parker's vocals are sort of wobbly and non-traditional. The high-hat is captured differently on the two records (very crisp on Gold, more splashy on Moon), but it's a very present 4/4 time-keeper regardless.
The result is a brand of indie rock that's warmed up by rootsy inclinations and bangs into things every once in a while, not unlike Harrity's own Harpswell Sound (Parker delivers like Trey Hughes), with a splash of Uncle Tupelo or Jonathan Richman.
You can hear the Tupelo on a song like Gold's "Trembling Stars," which features a mid-song ramp-up to go with a typically interesting line like "and I will sink with you to the depth of our dreams/Shake me violently again." Then the organ swells in as if to oppose Parker when he sings, "my heart withers as if we'd never been alone."
The Richman comes on a song like Moon's "Better Mistakes," where If and It play with basic pop song construction, with martial drumming and a warm piano sound from the keyboard, getting almost playful (almost) and creating a sweet song without every really doing anything pretty. The harmonica in the right channel balanced against the acoustic guitar in the left is a nice touch in the coda.
"I am still learning," Parker sings there, "to make better mistakes," and that seems to sum up much of the aesthetic here. It's exploratory without being experimental or outsider. They recorded the EP previous to these two in a cabin in New Hampshire. Maybe the next one will be a big-studio affair to balance Harrity's signature delicacy.