Independent Clauses | n. —unusual words about underappreciated music

The Comet Comes and Drops off Some Good Folk/pop tunes

September 11, 2009

There’s nothing more invigorating than popping an album in and being hit with a great song to kick off the album. ReedKD accomplishes this impeccably with “This Is It,” the opener to In Case the Comet Comes. The first sound is a wildly strummed mandolin, followed by a bass drum, tambourine, claps and vocals. The motifs of the album are laid out in full before “This is It” even finishes: acoustic instrumentation, instantly memorable melodies, yearning lyrics, folk/pop sound, capable of being uptempo but also comfortable in the slower vein, and established as part of a full-band aesthetic (even if the band is simply providing handclaps and bass drum hits).

Yes, “This Is It” is so good that it shouldn’t be legal to have a second track just that improves upon the formula. But “If the Tide Swings” does just that by adding a full band to the mix, with prominent bass guitar, fuller drum presence, accordion and more. It’s feels like all the members of the band are playing their hearts out, maybe at somebody’s house party somewhere. It has that loose, organic, passionate feeling, although the sound is crisp and the performances tight. It’s been immaculately made, but it doesn’t sound overproduced or thought to death. It’s clean, tight, and adrenalizing.

After the initial bang, ReedKD follows a road map eerily similar to the one laid out by previous effort The Ashes Bloom: slow numbers interspersed with some uptempo pieces and a sole electronic pop piece. His uptempo work is much improved this time around; “Cactus Garden” and “Sleepless Nights in Bed” kick the junk out of the older works due to the experimentation with other instruments. Playing drinking glasses is a great move, only improved by some muted brass picking up the slack in the chorus of “Sleepless Nights in Bed” (a highlight, for sure). The hoedown fiddle of “Cactus Garden” also lends a bit of unusual kick to his sound.

But his slower work is a bit too slow this time around, causing some lag in the album. “Space Vacuums” drags on for almost six minutes, which is far too long. “Lake Missouri” moves at what can only be described as a glacial pace. Closer “Splinters in the Evening” is too stately for the rest of the album, sticking out like a sore thumb. It’s understandable that the slow work is a bit off, though; in his previous album, Reed was everything. Reed’s deft acoustic guitar skills picked up the slow pieces on their own. When adding in and causing other instruments to carry tunes, as the bass does on “Lake Missouri” and the piano does on “Splinters in the Evening,” some of Reed’s skill gets muffled in the transition.

In Case the Comet Comes starts off with a bang and provides some great folk/pop moments along the way. There are a couple potholes on the road, but the majority of the tunes are catchy, peppy, and fun. If you like Josh Ritter, Josh Rouse, Avett Brothers, or David Shultz, this would make a good addition to your collection.

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

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