Tempe-based Avery is obviously at home in the desert. For those that have spent any significant amount of time in the Valley, this record certainly puts a sound to the restless, familiar, cautiously-optimistic-yet-lonely-on-the-prairie feeling that living in a place where no one is originally from will cause. There is something to be said about the particular arrangement of the band in pulling off the fully realized inflection of the material in this folky, lo-fi, sometimes up-tempo but not quite upbeat 5 song EP Avery has put forth. The songs sound simple enough during the initial listen, only to have the darker tones resonate once familiarity with the material sets in during later listens. This produces a subtle but very rich bittersweetness to the Avery EP, which is truly a strong showing for a band seeking to define not only confessional inner conflict, but the feeling of nearly an entire young desert region.As the record takes it’s first breaths the brisk pace of the guitar strumming of opener “Lovers” sets the tone, one of self-reflection and simultaneous mystification at the reality of it all, the weariness of realizing for the first time just how this life got to where it now is. “Lovers in love like a gift from up above / I’m losing sight. / It’s hard to see everything in pink / when it’s been black or white.” Vocalist and guitarist Mariah DeRaet’s low and controlled crooning drips with feeling, and on top of the underlying string patterns of Allison Galbreath contrast against the sweet, lullaby-reminiscent sound of a distant glockenspiel, the ingredients swell together to create an atmosphere of true self-reckoning. The song finds itself with more confidence than it began, with a note of hope in the later lines “It’s hard for me to believe in anything / but all my reservations are slowly unraveling. / You could be it for me.”
Single “Hospital Call” quickly bounces to life with the lines “Tried to write a love song / but it all came out wrong.” In detailing the story of an increasingly alienating relationship, the listener is privy to one-sided comforting words of someone trying to assuage another’s demons while realizing they may be in over their head. “Now you call me from the hospital / say ‘my head is sick and my heart is less than full’ / Say ‘everything’s gonna be alright / just get some sleep tonight.’ / I should take my own advice.” The driving feel of the song, coupled with lead guitarist Brad Mitchell’s slide guitar accentuating each verse, is reminiscent of a country song while still maintaining it’s own identity. It’s through this that Avery manages to display class and true musicality while still feeling modern.
“The Mess Inside” gives the album a halfway break towards a bit deeper, more weary, slightly down-tempo song. Meandering and intentionally half-spoken lines almost attempt to say more than the phrases allow. You can feel an inner tension–nearly ready to burst–at the need to express the confessions contained within the song, culminating with the hook “But I cannot run. / And I can’t hide / from the wreck we made of our house, / from the mess inside.” Rich, sorrowful cello swells pull the ear to feel precisely what the words mean.
“I’m not saying there’s nothing wrong / You can tell by the cigarettes I’ve smoked.” A catchy melody and backing harmonies push next track “Chain Smoker” towards nearly optimistic territory, neatly balancing out the album. “And you make it easy / to get rid of fucked up memories. / I’m not saying I did my best. / I could use another drink and you could use a little rest.” Here, in between the light shakers and not-quite poppy hand claps one realizes that sometimes a relationship doesn’t need to be utopia to be worthy of thankful reflection. The EP is closed out with the beautiful track “Pictures”, which is Avery at it’s most gravity-inducing. Drummer Eric Estrada’s subtle groove sets the pace under soaring strings and guitars that balance the palette of Avery’s gorgeous vocals, invoking a feeling of true longing and loss, the kind that lingers well after the ending of the record.
The Avery EP is a rich, balanced, and well executed showcase of a growing band that has quickly become one of Tempe’s mainstays. The songwriting and chemistry evident throughout the album allows listeners to easily relate to the seamlessly created atmosphere. Avery truly is at home in the desert. And the desert is truly at home with Avery.
Avery will premiere their EP tonight, February 1st, at the Sail Inn with special guests Future Loves Past, The Riveras, Tres Lunas, All My Friends, B.O.T.S., and Playboy Manbaby. The show is $10 at the door and starts at 8 p.m. You can also find the Avery EP on their bandcamp: http://averyazmusic.bandcamp.com/
Video (Hospital Call):