[album review] backwords // by the neck

tympanogram grade: b+

brooklyn-based backwords has an all lower-case band name to match their all lower-case ethos. no pesky upper case letters disturbing the flow; no punctual moments interrupting the mood. lower-case letters are inviting and informal. to that end, backwords has no problem leaving something like an errant sneeze in the final edit of their latest album, by the neck, out march 6.

by the neck was recorded, edited and mixed in backwords’ studio basement, so you can forgive it if it has the musical equivalents of water stains and frayed edges. like those purposefully retro-ized images that are all the rage these days, the music is washed out, fuzzy and filled with blemishes. the means exist to create a lush, bright, crisply produced sound, but they choose against it.

there is a refreshing rawness to the music that harkens both neil young and early 90s grunge. the guitars are erratic, rough, and at times lilting. the drums lay down a solid folk-rock base while touches of banjo here and piano there brighten the mood. every member gets behind the mic to contribute to the distinct vocal harmonies. though they can be strained, raspy and even borderline off-key, it works perfectly (and also makes it easier to sing along). everything oozes together to form a lazy lower-case mass of breezy summertime psychedelic folk rock.

initially the stand-out tracks for me are the catchy, piano-driven “naked flame” and fuzzed out “pieces of a dream,” though the album closing “magic bike ride,” which could easily find a home in an old sid and marty krofft children’s production, is quickly seeping into my subconscious. they’re offering up a free download of “anywhere now,” which will serve as good an introduction to backwords’ by the neck as any.

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backwords // anywhere now [mp3] from the forthcoming by the neck