Review Summary: An expansive, auspicious debut.
When listening to a complete unknown there is a certain apprehension that comes with an initial impression of, well, being impressed, especially when that impression is quite bizarre. Is this just utter garbage or is this guy on to something? Why isn’t this better known? Am I looking for things in this that aren’t really there? All of these questions can be asked of Arizona one-man-band Bigfoot Wallace, the moniker of Jon Hubbell. Bigfoot Wallace plays a strange, thematic mix of folk, psychedelic rock, and spacey, synthy indie bearing to mind artists as diverse as Fleet Foxes, Radiohead, and even at times Animal Collective. The mix isn’t seamless either; many of these songs are jarringly random, diverse, and changing. At any time the direction the album seems to be going will abruptly shift, implementing strings, horns, keys, and numerous other splashes at the most unexpected times. It remains unclear whether Bigfoot Wallace is suffering from an identity crisis of immense proportions or whether all these seemingly disparate directions are all of some greater plan, but undoubtedly Bigfoot Wallace has some pretty brilliant ideas up his sleeve.
One of the most definitively curious and striking characteristics of debut album Malleable is its constant ability to paradoxically mix opposite moods: anthemic yet intimate, sorrowful yet jubilant, subtle yet jarring. Rarely is an album found to both be so dense and spacious simultaneously. “Few and Far Between” shows this best of all perhaps, with its exuberant horn riff layered over strings, drums, and synths paired with smooth groovy verses layered with reverb-laden guitars, allowing the track to alternate between outlandishly huge and warmly familiar. Follow up “Noontime” starts with a driving, uplifting acoustic guitar with strings that rapidly builds to a climax only to be instantly brought back down again. Such happens throughout the entirety of the album, creating a unique hybrid of driving and meandering. Hubbell’s serene, distant voice adds to the effect. Sounding something like a less pretentious Fleet Foxes, Hubbell’s gentle tenor at times seems like the only constant. Diversity might be the only other; Malleable never settles down in any one place for more than a moment and has quickly whisked the listener away to somewhere else before one can even realize it.
By the end of Malleable the most certain conclusion to be made of this sprawling juggernaut is that Bigfoot Wallace is a gushing fountain of creative energy, possibly even too much so. The glaringly obvious flaw is that Malleable explores way too many directions without perfecting any, yet each shows so much potential that one could almost believe than any concrete bearing could be as fruitful as the next. A little more focus and direction next time could yield incredible results; Bigfoot Wallace could very well have a masterpiece to be seen in the near future.