Self-Released – December 12th, 2015
I’ll admit it: power pop isn’t a genre I’m thoroughly conversant in, but it is one I’ve gained appreciation for over the last eight months or so. During that time, I’ve been doing a show called ‘State Songs’ on WRFL – one that plays music from a different state each week. People insisted that Big Star was a must play for Tennessee (they were right), and I’m sure that the dB’s will have a spot on the episode about North Carolina. The thing is, though, that Palisades are starting to sound less strictly like a ‘power pop’ band – at least here on Nervous Habits.
Nervous Habits is a four-song EP that just eclipses the ten-minute mark, much like Handshake Codes that came out a couple Septembers ago. Like that preceding EP, the songs here are concise (maybe that’s appropriate, given that lead singer and guitarist, Scott Whiddon, directs the writing center at Transylvania University), but are perhaps a little more experimental. The lead-off track, “Burn the Maps,” is a fast-paced track with just a little bit of organ held over at the end (was that buried in the mix the whole time?). “Maybe We Can Just Hold Hands” with its soft-spoken background ‘ahhhh’s’ and nearly twangy guitar interludes feels like it’s channeling at least a little Jeff Tweedy, but does so without losing the feeling that it’s a Palisades song.
“Poor Holidays” is the first track on the backside of the EP, is a bit slower than the first two tracks, and the lengthiest of the release. The more laid-back tempo is a good thing, giving the mix a little more room to breathe – you can hear some double tracked and background vocals, and the distorted, reverb-heavy guitar solo stands out as one of my favorite things I’ve heard on a Palisades song. The EP is closed with “Careless,” a song that starts with the line “call in the reserves, I might need some help,” and ends with exactly that as friends of the band – including the likes of Dave Cobb, Joe Drury, Coralee, Robby Cosenza, John Drake – help sing on the final run of the song’s chorus.
It’s worth mentioning, too, some of the behind-the-scenes work that made this EP sound the way it does. First, the album was recorded at Shangri-La with J. Tom Hnatow, who was largely involved in the creation of last week’s album released by Small Batch. John Ferguson (Big Fresh, Apples in Stereo, and ATTEMPT) mixed the album, and we’ll be hearing a split 7″ record from Palisades and Big Fresh in the spring called Signal, Delayed. The album cover was created by Neil Bell, the band’s drummer, and is one of my favorite pieces of album art from a local band in a little while.
Nervous Habits is not only a good release, it’s my favorite from Palisades thus far. It is everything that a four song set of power pop songs should be, but it also proves that the band is modestly experimenting and doing new things, trying out new sounds. It’s some growth that I earnestly hope to see continue for Palisades, and a trend that has definitely paid off for them here.
Tracks I Liked: Burn the Maps!, Maybe We Can Just Hold Hands!!, Poor Holidays!!!, Careless!
Ben Southworth – December 6th, 2015 – Patterson Drive // Rose Street