Monday, February 06, 2012

TOWN HALL Sticky Notes and Paper Scraps

Town Hall declare they are "not your run-of-the-mill Brooklyn folk group" and claim kinship with Woods, Beirut and The Middle East. The core three-piece – multi-instrumentalists Stefan Weiner, Phoebe Ryan and Jesse Kranzler – recall from that list a miniature The Middle East, smaller in numbers and less expansive than the now defunct Australian chamber-folk six-piece but just as intricate and precise in their gently orchestrated alt-folk musings.

Supported by a host of string and woodwind players and a respectfully-in-the-background rhythm section, their second EP release is a name-your-price digital five track EP. The quiet simplicity of ‘Just Watching My Breath’ opens “Sticky Notes and Paper Scraps” with gently picked mandolin, breathy, sweet harmonies and understated string arrangements and clarinet; it’s as fresh as the morning air it sings of. ‘Alright’ is more complex affair: Weiner's flat-toned rendition of more obtuse lyrics over subtly undulating backdrop of shifting time signatures, clicks and whirrs and the softest hint of campfire-psychedelic guitars. ‘Pandora’ has a more straightforwardly enjoyable bluegrass-and-banjo jauntiness. It is the band at their liveliest but briefest with Phoebe Ryan's alluring but cutesy yodel undercutting any darkness of the genre. ‘Mary A Longden’ is a more muscular and intriguing track, a quasi-historical biography in song of a mysteriously ageless woman. The EP finishes with the contrasting ‘Charlie’, a gentle, meandering piece that is so frail it can fade away from attention if the listener isn’t fully attentive.

The EP title suggests a messiness and random approach that just isn’t present. If anything the five varied tracks are a little too meticulous, a little too studied in their delicate preciousness. The You Tube covers of Jimmy Eat World and a 1930s blues song discovered via 78rpm recording maintain the intricate acoustic arrangements but being played live lends them a slightly more playful looseness. Despite these minor gripes, it is clear Town Hall are indeed not “run-of-the-mill” and there is plenty here to stoke anticipation for the band’s debut album due this March.

Just Watching My Breath by TownHall

Pandora by TownHall

Town Hall Sticky Notes and Paper Scraps [BUY]

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