Wednesday, August 25, 2010

New Release: Grass Widow

In 2009, the three women who comprise Grass Widow released the year's best debut full-length. As it came out on the tiny Make-A-Mess imprint, it flew under the radar of most of the "indie" covering sector.

Yesterday saw the release of the group's second album Past Time on the larger Kill Rock Stars label. This, along with some other factors (like being invited to open for Sonic Youth at Prospect Park), should raise Grass Widow's profile considerably. It's probable that those who missed out on the band's debut will be quick to heap praise on their sophomore long player, knowing full well they need to catch up on a good thing. However, the consensus thus far of those who heard and liked Grass Widow's self-titled debut seems to be that Past Time is a weaker record.

And I say that's bull. Past Time is both less "punky" and poppy" than the band's first album. As such, it's a bit harder to find an easy point of entry. Yet after a few spins, it becomes obvious that Grass Widow's songwriting hasn't slipped. They're just less interested in conventional verse-chorus-verse structure this time out than they were previously. Rather than provide direct hooks to hang your hat on, Grass Widow invite you to luxuriate in their singular sound. Their voices (the band's harmonies are top notch) and instruments weave in and out of each other. Each element is distinct and sometimes oblique yet they seamlessly form a whole. That may read as being challenging and it can be but Grass Widow is also stealthily inviting. They prove that rock music doesn't need to loud or noisy to be uncompromising. Nor does it need to be traditionally catchy to burrow its way right into your brain's pleasure center.

In 2010, it's increasingly difficult and rare for a band with a simple guitar/bass/drums/vocals lineup to forge a unique sonic identity. Grass Widow have done just that. Even more impressive is that they've managed to do so relying solely on their playing and songwriting, with no noticeable production tricks to lean on. (It should be noted, however, that production is much improved from the debut.)

A few days ago I posted a video from Past Time along with a bunch from other artists. They've since released another. At the risk of redundancy and borderline sycophantic hyperbole, I'm posting this one as well. If it's my duty to inform you of music that should be part of your life, then shoving Grass Widow down your throats (to paraphrase Fox News talking heads on healthcare) outweighs all other concerns.


David Glickman said...

Ok so I've been wanting to get into Grass Widows for awhile and every track I've heard I've pretty much loved. So should I start with this release, there debut album, or the 12" on Captured Tracks?

PB said...

They're all very good, David. Start wherever most convenient.