Our House On The Hill
When Vivian Girls-offshoot (perhaps a moot tag these days) The Babies burst out with their ramped-up gem “Meet Me In The City” back in 2009, it was set in a palpable moment of new, skillful guitar pop bands. The new lo-fi C86/Caputured Tracks/Woodsist/In The Red wave of distorted jangle enthusiasts making really good though familiar and structured pop has subsided since then, but many of the key purveyors of the distorted glee still have a steady output.
The Babies are on a scruffy country tip when it comes to the distorted pop and soft garage. The combined songwriting duties of Vivian Girls’ Cassie Ramone and Woods’ Kevin Morby have an off-the-cuff vibe that is suggestive of this being a side-project (even though they have moved well beyond such a tag) and it’s probably a good thing; where many of the tracks lack in an overtly catchy guitar line or chorus, there’s an essential looseness and casual feeling without any hackneyed porch-jam contrivances.
Opening track “Alligator” is energetic in such a way, with a sort of aloof romanticism that takes shape out of a strummy pace and a particularly Brooklyn kind of hurriedness.
Ramones’ semi-disembodied 50s “oohs” and “ahhs” caterwaul down in the way we’re used to on “Slow Walkin”, which is a little more succinct and punchy. “See the Country” traces a similar tone, coming off gentle and almost like a lost track from The Bats. There are swayer’s like “Get Lost” which really open up classic boy-girl pop feelings to come out.
“On My Team” leaves a little more space between verse and chorus and has more of the wild-eyed energy and fervour the subtle but killer chord progressions that make this kind of guitar music so worthwhile. It seems important for these briefly transcendent melodic in such a classic songform, but Our House On The Hill doesn’t always rely on them.
It’s a pretty hybridized record in that sense, free to skirt many 50s, 60s and 70s pop familiarities that both the original wave of C86 guitar pop and current crop explore. The middleground that The Babies enjoy coasting is pretty well realized and perhaps quite “purist” in its classicism, but that doesn’t always mean it’s memorable.