My husband and I went to hear Nettles play earlier this year. (Full disclosure; we are friends with some of the people in the band and went to a free show they were giving.) But being the effete snobs that we are when it comes to music, we went with modest expectations. I was expecting to hear that circusy indie folk sound. You know the style; lots of musicians with different instruments, matching clothes, shtick. Don’t get me wrong, I like some music that is of the freak folk / noise rock genre, but mostly, I hate it.
I couldn’t have been more wrong in my assumptions. The music is haunting, eerie in a good way. But heartening at the same time. It’s incredible. Lucky for us, they just shared some brand new songs. I saw an email announcing a homespun 4-song release and upcoming show. So I went to the bandcamp page to give a listen.
It’s good. Like, really good.
I immediately started telling people to go listen to it. My husband was like, “you should blog about this” But I was thinking that you guys would figure I was biased since there are friends involved. Well screw that. This music must be shared. Henceforth, my take.
Paw (Daniel), the first listen, is the strongest track here. Nettles channels a little bit of Jackson C. Frank and Leonard Cohen but with crystal clear vocals so similar to Jim James (of My Morning Jacket) that I had to listen to do a little comparison. Nettles is economical both in word and sound, tender but world-weary at the same time. Houses or You Know All Of The Ghosts is a brilliantly raw, intricate song that harkens to the intimacy of Bill Callahan, but is less ambiguous, more redemptive. The harmonizing vocals are reminiscent of Midlake or Fleet Foxes, without being jejune. A bombastic bit that makes you realize there is something crazy cool going on here. I hear the influences of Neil Young and maybe later Destroyer (Queen of Languages).
Despite comparison, Nettles stands on their own; are unique. They capture all that is good about modern folk without cloying elements that are often present. Truly a sweet spot has been found in a lovely combination where the influences are present, but don’t overpower the songs. They are there, you nod appreciatively, you enjoy.
Both of these songs will leave you wishing there was an entire album to listen to over and over. It Wasn’t A Dream, It Was A Flood (Coda) is a nice interlude but not consistent with the other tracks. Keep Pt. 2, is the first Nettles song we heard at their show. It’s now very fleshed out. The slight echo in the vocals is inspired. As are the bits and pieces of percussion that come in and out. It reminds me of the landscape here in Virginia. And as Flood breaks into gorgeous instrumentation every so often, you can hear water. I want to hear Keep Pt. 1, whatever that is.
The good news is that Nettles will be performing at the Twisted Branch Tea Bazaar with TIMBRE and LOBO MARINO July 30th at 9:15, $7 cover at the door
Guion Pratt – words and music
Juliana Daugherty – flutes, saw, tambo,
Chris Campanelli – lead/impressionistic guitar, banjo
Sam Bush – keys, banjo
Dhara Ghoradia – upright bass