(self released, 2012)
“Hey man, I’ve got a bottle of whiskey. Bring your guitar over.”
“Be right there.”
I’m obviously imagining this innocuous phone conversation from the night Blacks& (pronounced “black sand,” duh) was conceived, but it may have been that simple. Donald Eley and Tiger Smith of The Sea of Cortez (Smith also plays in NazcarNation) hung out one night over a bottle of, let’s say, Dalwhinnie (they don’t seem like the smoky, peaty type, if the music is any indication), and concocted the whole thing. Now, you and I know what a night of whiskey and jamming gets you, and it usually ain’t pretty. Most likely it’ll smell bad and sound awful. So tell me: How does Blacks& get a pass on the whole hangover jam sesh? I mean, c’mon, A Ghost That Follows Me has some of the most pleasant music I’ve heard in quite a while. It’s almost not fair.
Eley and Smith are joined by the secret weapon, vocalist/guitarist Justin Taylor, aka Jutty Shark, whose sublime vocals coast effortlessly over the breezy songs. You know how some singers really put forth a tremendous amount of effort to cultivate maximum tunefulness? I don’t mean that have to try super hard to sound good, they just belt it ’cause they can, and level the room in the process. Taylor’s not like those singers – sounds like he’s lounging on a beat-up couch, enjoying himself immensely in the company of his friends, and laying down take after take of vocal perfection. I’ll say it again, because it bears repeating: his singing is effortless. The harmonies are divine – a little Brian Wilson here, a little Caribbean there (Safe’s C. F. Edley comes to mind a bit on the low notes), and a track like “The Race Is On” shifts from that’s-nice-breezy-tropical-indie to capital-W-Wow-dude as soon as the vocals take over.
The Real Estate–meets–The Clientele beauty of the reverb-soaked “What They Think” “makes me want to burn every book I’ve ever read, it makes me want to seal my ears and never hear no songs again,” that’s how good it is. And I can quote their lyrics to tell you how I feel about the song! Who does that? They’re writing good songs and writing my reviews for me? I’m going to pack it in – I think it’s the end of the road.
So just an EP? Really? Three songs? That’s not enough, guys! I kid of course, but my gosh, I can’t wait to hear a debut LP. Well-attended and well-dressed 1960s-themed cocktail parties will have an all-time soundtrack once that puppy drops. Or top-down SoCal beach days. Both, probably. Blacks& can pull it off, they’ve done it already.
RIYL: NazcarNation, The Sea of Cortez, The Clientele, Safe, Real Estate, “Velouria” (kind of), Lionel Richie