Thursday, August 13, 2009

Review: Netherfriends - Calling You Out

Calling You Out (Emergency Umbrella)
Grade: B-

*MP3: Netherfriends - "Nunya (Beeswax)"

If listeners were approaching Netherfriends' debut EP on Emergency Umbrella, Calling You Out, with fresh ears, they'd might marvel at how quickly the influence of Animal Collective's Merriweather Post Pavillion has spread to younger bands. Despite the fact that the Chicago-based group has been playing live shows since 2007, the stylistic similarities between the two bands is hard to dispute: Both traffic a shimmering brand of modern psychedelia with vocals that pre-suppose Carl Wilson was really an elf. Not helping matters is Netherfriends' use of vaguely African-sounding percussion and keyboard tones that could double as kaliedoscopic songbirds--both of which are sonic tricks that also appear in the AC playbook.

So what's to prevent one fanbase from sneezing "rip off" in the general direction of the other's burgeoning local following? The answer is simple: Just because you happen to follow closely to one path doesn't mean you have to follow all of their steps completely. On tracks like "Really?" and "Friends with Lofts," the band throws in the pleasing sing-song of Americana-tinged experimentalism to great effect, with the former possessing an incredible appealing keyboard line that apes a yodel.

It's only on the EP's soggy, pop-filled middle that the band dances awkwardly with derivative songwriting, with a trio of dodgy songs, that don't help distinguish Netherfriends from the psych-pop pack. Fortunately, EP closer "Don't Invite Me" helps close Calling You Out on a strong note, an compact epic that incorporates ethereal soundscapes and jutting tempo changes. While Netherfriends make a few slips creatively, there's enough strong material to ensure that any forthcoming full-lengths will earn deserved listens.

Netherfriends MySpace Page

Netherfriends play the Automatic Collective tonight. A donation of five bucks is suggested Here's the lineup:


(Jon Graef)