Review Summary: More than just charming
In terms of music, I hardly consider the term ‘charming’ to be a compliment. By strict definition of ‘compliment,’ it probably is, but that doesn’t change the fact that ‘charming’ implies something is missing. It’s much like exchanging pleasantries; sure, the conversation may be nice, but it is neither memorable nor intimate. Many indie and folk artists (particularly female-fronted ones) do little to break out of this shell, creating albums that make me think, “Yeah, that was pretty good,” but do little to inspire me to re-listen to them. It’s not so much that they do anything wrong so much as not doing anything extraordinarily well. Thankfully, with Sit Resist
, Laura Stevenson and the Cans avoid falling into this trap.
One way to break out of the ‘charming’ mold is to place a heavy emphasis on melody, and I’ll be damned if I find someone who doesn’t want to just sing along to the definitive album highlight ‘Master of Art’ as Stevenson sings, “I could lie and say to you that this will soon be over/ I could lie and say I knew we would be waking up tomorrow.” Yeah, the lyrics are cutesy and the arpeggiated guitar chords dreamy, but the song is so much more than the sum of its parts. It's is pretty much Laura and her Cans telling the world, “Yeah we can take your typical indie song and make it ***ing awesome.” And then in ‘The Healthy One,’ the band continues this more upbeat approach, and by the time the accordion reenters at the climax, you can’t help but to think, “Man, this album is really something special.” Thankfully, the same is true for most of the rest of the songs, too---even many of the songs that start off slow delightfully crescendo into something simultaneously wonderfully folksy. After the French horns temporarily leave in ‘Barnacles,’ Stevenson has her charm on full gear, but they return, transforming the song into something more than an above-average run-of-the-mill folk song.
At the same time, other songs show Stevenson noticeably quieter, but even here, the intimacy adds to the songs to create something more than just ‘charming.’ ‘Finish Piece’ is everything your favorite indie rock band wishes it could write, forsaking bombastic instrumentation in exchange for a breathtaking closeness. Who doesn’t empathize even slightly with Stevenson’s desperation as she repeats, “Please take a piece of me”? At just 1:46 long, this song makes it fairly easy to identify these sorts of tracks: they’re the shorter tracks. It’s nice to have the band not stretch out its emotion past however long the emotion lasts, avoiding any possibility of any contrivance within the album. But this isn’t to say the band doesn’t resist sitting comfortably within the constraints of indie-folk with the more banjo-laden ‘Montauk Monster,’ but even then, they keep it interesting with inharmonious guitars melodies playing at the beginning, banjos swelling to the climax, and the entire band laughing at the end of the song. Instead of being an indistinguishable conglomeration of like-sounding, downtempo indie-rock, Sit Resist
's songs each have their own worth---something to stand out and make the entire album something more than simply ‘pleasant.’
Essentially the band’s effort on Sit Resist
can be likened to the second and third-to-last tracks, ‘The Wait’ and ‘The Weight.’ The clever homophonic titles show a likable side of the band, but both tracks are really breathless songs, with the former showing the soft-loud dynamic that merges the band’s folk influences with their rock origins and the latter showing the emotional weight of the downbeat, slower songs. All this makes for one hell of a record.
Call it a classic album. Call them a band full of potential. Hell, call it a charming album. But make sure you know exactly what you mean with that description.