Here is installment two in my continuing series reviewing young indie bands from Seattle, WA, I ask your patience with my latest obsession. ‘Posse’ has released their second disc of exceptional tunes called “Soft Opening”. The band is performing and releasing recordings without the safety net of a big music industry contract.They recorded the disc in band member Sacha Maxim’s basement and released it on their label, Beat a Dead Horse Records. The band formed in 2010 when Co singer and guitarist Sacha met fellow co singer and guitarist Paul Whittman-Todd at a Seattle Lesbian bar.
They decided to form a band together because there were not a lot of other options. They added Jon Salzman on drums and the rest as they say is history. These are bright folks who also hold down some serious day jobs. Whitman-Todd is an electrical engineer, Maxim an employee at Microsoft and Salzman a therapist. Posse describes themselves as the result of delay pedals and 27 years of disappointment. There are few thrills to the music they make and not a lot of studio tricks besides a tambourine, fuzz pedal and bit of delay. Yet every instrument has its space and the sum is greater than its parts. The recording has made Pitchfork’s 10 most overlooked albums of 2014 and the band was listed 24 on NME’s 31 new bands to discover.
In making the second record the band hit the wall many bands
encounter. Sophomore efforts are almost always difficult. The first record is easy because years are spent writing and developing the input. The second record becomes more problematic because there is less time and more pressure to grow and also complete the recording while gigging. The band likens the progression for their recordings in this way, the self titled first recording was like, get in the studio and get it done. The second recording was spent arguing over what should be done and how. The band was so involved in the second record they dropped out of the Seattle live music scene to the extent that everyone thought they had broken up.
Posse’s first record was much more rock oriented, “Soft Opening” is a bit slower and inward looking. There is an ennui that belies their mid twenties. They are almost too jaded for their age. The recording could have ended up in the dangerous territory of post adolescent whinging but it redeems itself by have a sense of humor about its passive aggressiveness. Just when you think this is total slacker rock coming from the rec room basement, a chord is added or a lyric that complicates and perfects the song.
“Interesting Thing#2” A tight sounding song, with great vocal interaction between Whitman-Todd and Maxim. The trippy happy feeling of the song betrays the angst of the lyric.” turned 25, so many things you haven’t tried”. “You might be wrong” sings Maxim, Todd-Whitman returns with “You might be on to something.” At the crossroads, it can be hard to choose the right path.
“Afraid” Whitman-Todd and Maxim again switch off singing responsibilities in this mid tempo twangy guitar tune. A stream of consciousness conversation attempting to try to come to grips with life and relationships.
“Talk” Maxim shines as the singer on this track. Also bringing out her inner “Kim” that is Kim Deal and Kim Gordon. “Your gonna talk through this and not care”. Nice trippy delay reverb pedal action. Maxim questions why are you asking my opinion when you are going to do what you want and rationalize your decision? This song hearkens to the Pixies when Kim sang lead.
“Shut Up” Whitman-Todd takes over singing on this tune. Beginning of the song almost reminds me of the b-side Radiohead tune” Bishops Robes”. Dare I say also a very Velvet Underground feel? ‘I’m gonna pull myself together, and simplify somethings, and shut up”. The lyric seems to suggest the song is about the discovery that every battle is not worth fighting. Is this realization maturity or resignation? Is it good manners or accepting defeat that prevents the person speaking in this song from finally telling the dolt at work to shut (explicative) up? A really wonderful guitar solo in this song.
“Jon” Maxim takes over on vocals. Song is about watching from the sidelines as a friend struggles with the ups and downs of a relationship. Starting with the very recognizable part, where the person can not stop talking on the phone to his girlfriend to the almost inevitable end where he is crying on the phone over the end of the relationship. This is my favorite song on the disc. Great driving guitar and this song sticks with you, a total earworm.
“2U” – Wonderfully mellow song that unfolds revealing the fact we all go through the same stuff. There is a nice switch about 2/3 thirds of the way into the song, ending in with a much harder edge.
“Cassandra B” ‘Maybe I should try to adapt, maybe I could be a bit more careful, instead of always throwing myself head first into unfortunate crap.” Wow that is a lyric to live by. Relationships and how they work when you’re at the back end of your twenties and you think there is nothing new to experience. You’ve got your lines and your game face figured out, until not so much. You have been seen through and the awkwardness of that moment. “Because I tried to convince you that I was the type that reads Willa Cather and shit like that, but the binding wasn’t cracked.” How awkward is that? Ask yourself if you have ever heard Willa Cather referenced in a song, brilliance.
“Zone” Longest song on the disc. “Don’t touch me I am in my zone.” This lyric can be applied so many ways besides the obvious. Love the end piece of this song which seems like the subconscious negotiation between the rationalization that” It is not my fault”, and the ego saying “Don’t (explicative) mess it up.”
With eight short tracks, the band definitely leaves you wanting more. They are coming along nicely as a young band and have a lot of potential. They have a great sense of humor, are unflappable and capable of some amazing music. Posse writes a mean lyric and has great terse arrangements. These are three smart people making some great music while trying to deal with adulthood. I emphatically suggest you give this band a go. (I thank you for indulgence)