Independent Clauses | n. —unusual words about underappreciated music

Premiere: Chaperone Picks’ Disappearing Better

November 29, 2017

Chaperone Picks’ Disappearing Better is a true-blue lo-fi album recorded four-track to cassette. Mr. Picks (the artist’s preferred moniker) doesn’t just maintain the recording aesthetic of the late ’80s and early ’90s–his successfully songs carry the torch for the songwriting style touted by The Mountain Goats, Sentridoh, and The Microphones.

Disappearing Better would probably be called an indie-pop record these days, or maybe a singer/songwriter record, but it’s best understood as a lo-fi record. These are sort-of pop songs, written quickly (but not sloppily) with an intentionally small amount of instrumental layers and preserved almost as soon as they were made. This type of songwriting is a specific, almost self-contained universe that contains masterpieces for those willing to make the trek. (All Hail West Texas by the Mountain Goats is the apex of this style for me; it contains two or three of my favorite songs of all time, but was written/recorded in a manner of weeks.)

Chaperone Picks nails the ethos here, producing some great songs along the way. “Calling You Out On Me” features lo-fi’s almost-trademark heavy acoustic guitar strum and an absurdly hummable vocal melody. Follow-up “And Let Live” includes drums to create a punchier vibe, but the core elements of acoustic guitar, great vocal melodies, and Mr. Picks’ front-and-center vocals remain. “Mouth to Mouth” tempers some of the chunky strum with high-mixed lead acoustic lines and charming tambourine, creating a quieter version of the Picks sound that retains all of the interest of the aforementioned songs.

Part of the intrigue of lo-fi is a function of its quickly-created premise: the songs are all (generally) mined from one vein. Instead of writing a bunch of songs over a long period of time that may have wide variations in style and content, a true lo-fi album is a snapshot of a moment in time. Disappearing Better has a clearly identifiable flavor, from the melancholy opener “I Suppose” to the frustration-outlet “And Let Live” to the speak/sing vocal performance of closer “True Lives.” This is a autumnal record, one that isn’t strongly minor key or strongly major key. There are some songs that sound melancholy but seem to have generally positive lyrics (“True Lives”) and vice versa. If you’re into seasonal listening, this may help you go from fall to winter in your listening regimen.

Disappearing Better is a record that gets better with time: the more I learn the subtle contours of the songs, the more the record endears itself to me. That’s another hallmark of lo-fi that Chaperone Picks doesn’t disappoint on. If you’re looking for some strong acoustic lo-fi work, look no further than Disappearing Better. You’ll be humming along soon.

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Stephen Carradini and friends write reviews of bands that are trying to make the next step in their careers.

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