For all the chaos, abuse, and disruption of recent years, local musicians have proven to be a resilient bunch. If you don’t know it by now, take heart that you can always count on the creative spirit. Brilliant performances somehow still find a place to happen and powerful albums still get recorded. That makes The Man’s ineptitude and meddling all the more tragic - what heights could be reached with a little help, or at the least, by the powers-that-be simply getting the fuck out of the way? So cheers to our peers, who steadfastly follow their hearts during these dark hours.
And in keeping with this theme of resolve amid the trials of life, may I present the latest album on the scene deserving praise: Blind Acid Date’s second release, One Hand Free. American transplant Nathan Javens’ opus goes deeper into his musical roots, and the result is something bespeckled with beauty, somber but surprising, ambitious but not forced.
One Hand Free’s sounds are set in old-school tones. In these classic timbres and harmonies, the atmosphere is both forlorn and determined. It’s a rusty diner car of 50’s-60’s rock, and maybe some bubblegum pop, but with the sweet innocence of the genre replaced by a bottle of Scotch and a Jeff Buckley chaser.
Tremolo washes over of the album, and give it a timeless feel. A weary Ronettes beat is the foundation for Moving On, while the haunting whistling of Streets Alone makes me think Roy Orbison or Del Shannon on downers. A slow-motion Lou Reed guitar progression is the basis of Big Fish Small Fish, highlighted, for me, by the minimalist solo. The big beat of Leopard gives the album a kick before it gets too down.
Although there are some beaten-down moments, like Even Matter (“Does a song even matter if it’s sung alone out in the rain?”), Better Off (“You’re better off crawling into the ocean...”), and Future Prospects (“I’d be moving if I had somewhere to go..”), they are counterbalanced by some defiance on 11 (“Is it what you thought it’d be / Dig into the mystery you’re on”) and Moving On (“But I see through the trees that my cup is overflowing once again”). For the spirit of the album, down-but-not-out would surmise things best.
As with their first release, a self-titled EP, the band’s performances are solid across the board. But the jewel of this album - what elevates and distinguishes it - is the use of the backing vocals. It may seem odd to grant a complementary element such distinction, but they are the special ingredient. They grabbed my attention, not only for successfully completing the wholeness of each song, but also as a statement: there is a grand vision for this album and it won’t be half-assed. Moving On and So Long are my favorite tracks thanks to these vocals and overall orchestration.
One Hand Free is reflective tome, circling through questions and answers with hope and determination. It is experienced, but not in a Jimi Hendrix way. It is the sound of a few precious nuggets of wisdom acquired the hard way.
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