Seasaw - Big Dogs

by Bill Golembeski Rating:9 Release Date:2018-09-07
Seasaw - Big Dogs
Seasaw - Big Dogs

This is a wonderful pop record with folk and rock instincts. And it’s like a great photo album stuffed with endless melodies. So, enjoy all the modern twists and vocal turns that flip the traditional folk syntax into an obtuse outer orbit of humor, vocal gymnastics, and the absolute fun of just being young.

But, ultimately, this is just a record by Eve and Meg, two women who love dogs and sometimes wear blue tinted glasses. And, with everything haywire in America right now, that’s a pretty decent lifeboat upon which to stake an uncertain claim for sanity.

And that’s the gist of this album: It’s a unique, self-deprecating-melodic-harmonic-jigsaw-oasis of a record that spins some sort of reprieve in the whirlpool of a world in which we live. There are doors within doors within doors within doors that deeply open into the grooves of these nice songs.  

The second song “Big Dogs,” is an absolute euphoric bit of music. (And the video is dog lover-laugh-out loud favorite canine imperfect, perfect.)

As said, this is a pop record. The instrumentation is electric guitar, clever percussion, and the odd keyboard, all of which frame the two voices that trade leads, harmonize, and hover in melodic circles that ring with the sound of friendship. It is a joy to hear.

The first song, “Sheep’s Clothing,” is quick, guitar-strummed, and sharp-edged. It lives in the same neighborhood as the music of (the great) Amy Rigby and her album, Little Fugitive." This record also recalls the clever vocal sound of (the equally great) Kate and Anna McGarrigle, on their album Dancer with Bruised Knees. Now, my dear mother always said something about the company you keep. Well, that’s pretty impressive company. And, yeah, fans of Courtney Barnett (whose music is a bit more obvious rock) will like this band, too.

To suggest the axiomatic: Meg and Eve’s ethos is their ever-delightful harmony vocals. “Hangin’ Out Too Much” is a companion piece to Big Star’s “In the Street.” Now, Meg and Eve (even with the canine help of Herbie and Lucy) aren’t going to match the sound of Alex, Andy, Chris, and Jody; but “God(zilla) has more of the beautiful Big Star pop perfection with a really nice fuzzy guitar figure. Again, it’s the company you keep.  (And please check out the video for this tune, too.) “Sylvia” is odd pop vocal harmony heaven. As is “Pick Me Up,” with its further venture into that very same pop harmony heaven and yet another guitar solo that, perhaps, rocks a bit harder than anything else on the record.

By the way, I was lucky enough, some time ago, to be in the audience while the comedian Dick Gregory entertained the masses. For the initial twenty minutes or so, the guy was funny in a way that ached the sides of the universe. Then he said a lot of stuff that was really profound. And we all listened because humor is a welcome magnet. Now, the women of Seasaw are not political activists like Dick Gregory, but they do lure the listener with video humor and self-deprecation, and then deliver something that is quietly profound. “No Way” is a passionate example, as it slows things a bit with percussion and a big vocal that is strong and direct, like a Cupid’s arrow bullseye; and in a Madison, Wisconsin way, it has the punch of an early Kate Bush song. “Eight Grand” does the same thing (sound like Kate Bush, that is), in the sense that the vocals flutter like the butterflies that my own “big dog” Willamena chases in her late summer backyard.

The rest of the record chases even more butterflies. “In Spite of Me” is passionate music that lands on the heart and bleeds a little bit. This sort of song makes a mere collection of tunes into an album. “Perfect,” too, slows and broadens the drama of the record. And then “Livin’ Like Somebody” finally delivers the acoustic sound that has been the promise of these vocal harmonies. It’s a serene moment with a deep keyboard solo. Again, this sort of stuff propels pop music into album orbit.

The final song, “Knockout,” is the reservoir into which all the other songs flow. The percussion is precise; the harmonies seek heaven; and the tune actually rocks with the balance of any neighborhood park’s innocent seesaw (or Seasaw) that simply rises and dips, back and forth, with good friends’ weight, good friends’ songs, good  friends’ harmonies, a bit of electric guitar, big dogs, stuffed dogs, imaginary dogs, a playful Godzilla; and ultimately, enough youth to inject a bit of humor into an album that makes pop tunes clever enough to rock all the friends who love the music those neighborhoods will always sing.

And these songs are vocal moons that circle the distant planets and prove, just like this record, that clever harmony may well be the best song, a song to be played like a good poker hand, a song of humor, a song about dogs, a song that understands the slow spaces, a song that simply itches an irritant, and, sure, a song that is a lifeboat, a reprieve, and positive proof that every big dog inspires the creation of a pretty good big dog pop rock album.

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