If the words; surfy, sunny, jangly, Australian, or Mac Demarco sound like bad news to you, I highly suggest you skip to the next paragraph and keep on reading. For those of you still on board, Redspencer is a fresh new band centered around two brothers –Dave and Aiden McMillan, and their fellow musicians. Coming from the land down under, it seems as if the group carries a natural sunkissed tone, while also maintaining an incredible chemistry that makes carefully constructed songs sound like friendly jam sessions. Their latest release, Perks is quite impressive. When I first heard about the album, I made the mistake of having some less than great expectations.
My last naieve words before I hit play sounded a bit like; “Oh look, it’s another gang of Mac Demarco-esque musicians playing jangly guitar lines and singing with a burned out tone.” And then Redspencer made me deepthroat my own foot –the group is remarkable.
“Gtalk,” the opening track, is a beautiful take on resort-bossa. An intricate opening guitar lick takes on some beachy tones while the raspy-whine vocals slide in along more guitars –a rough blend between Dick Dale, Demarco, and a slice of Brazil for garnish. In some ways, on the first listen, the song comes across as a cheap novelty. The doubts built ever so slightly into the next track. “Fuss” introduces itself as dreary. The guitar chords seem simplified in contrast to the previous track, and an added acoustic is suspicious. Even so, across these two wildly different opening tracks, Redspencer manages to fuse a variety of sounds and styles into two very neat tunes. The contrast had me skeptical at first. “Gtalk” is sweet and sweeping with warm melodies that keep things moving on a high note. “Fuss” is a wild departure that creates an almost-solemn, bluesy ballad. It’s a shocking experience that ends in a display of adaptability.
As track three, “Spare Me,” sneaks up, the mood gains a little bit of momentum, and the band begins to demonstrate more creativity. The repeating guitar line is hypnotic and lulling, producing a sort of musical ‘om’. The vocals lure you into a sunset-highway soundscape. Somewhere in there, a guitar manages to slip in an extra, sharp line that leaves a bit of a lasting impression. With the addition of some bright and airy, woodwind-alike keys, Redspencer manages to finish the song as some textural masterpiece. Each voice blends together perfectly so that your ears begin to lose track and leave you lost to the ethereal, auditory abyss.
Okay, so maybe it’s not that good, but it’s at this point in the album that I really began to appreciate Redspencer. Their songs balance fantastic composition with accessibility and diversity. It’s an impressive display that often manages to be perfectly executed but a bit overly safe. Perks doesn’t seem to offer a blockbuster up to this point, but the band continues to up the ante across each track. As the album progresses, so does its quality.
Straddling the interlude between first half and second half are two solid and surprisingly unique songs. Track five, “Hard Work,” flirts with grunge. Redspencer adopts some brief guitar riffs, tranquilized by a lack of distortion. It’s merit is in variety, providing something a bit darker sounding in an otherwise, often overwhelmingly cheerful album. After a digital interlude, Redspencer tosses us the title track. “Perks,” is a wee bit psychedelic, and immerses itself in 90’s alternative. Armed with the power of lo-fi distorted guitar chords, Redspencer pays homage to the Butthole Surfers, Dinosaur Jr, and similar. The songs feel appropriate in sequence and are both fantastic changeups. Most impressively, up to this point, the band somehow managed to embrace the slacker vibe and make it unique, interesting, and worthwhile.
This ornery reviewer began losing faith in the slacker-sais quoi quite some time ago. Whether it’s soft and droney or sunkissed and stoney, every freshmen attempt to capture the coolness of effortless seemed to be increasingly disappointing. Simply put, I just don’t like what the kids are putting out.
Redspencer captures the lax vibes and groovy guitar lines by mixing a natural chemistry with some Australian warmth. The sounds the band produce just sound natural –the melodies are organic and convincing. Theory one; it’s the brotherly love. The McMillans’ probably have an extensive history of just jamming –as a result their music really comes from an experience that allows multiple minds to play as one.
Theory two; the musicians behind Redspencer are creative geniuses. Perks demonstrates a slew of intelligent decisions. The way guitar and vocals work together, often alongside a soft but incredibly rhythmic and alluring percussion is impressive. Each voice practices perfect restraint, allowing each layer of texture to work together into a constant stream of carefully constructed melodies. The harmonies the vocal lines build fall between Beach Boys turned zombies to Fleet Foxes gone beachy. Granted, this isn’t some orchestral masterpiece, the band just performs incredibly well.
That said, I’m having a very difficult time finding fault in Perks. The album not only shattered my expectations, but frankly lifted the bar much, much higher for future slacker-surf-punk groups. Perhaps this is an unfair assessment but Redspencer’s chilled out style (and I mean really chilled out, really lulling) doesn’t allow for much poppy excitement. A memorable single would have been nice, something to show the naysayers. It’s difficult to discern the band’s works from others, it’s difficult to just pick one song and say, “Aha! This is it!” Perks delivers itself best as an entire listen, a mixture of 90’s jams and modern Demarco-defying, fresh, groovy, lo-fi, yet jangly guitars –all tracks lending themselves to a fantastic final product.
Even so, after the passing of the first few skeptical listens, tracks one, two, three –I found myself time and time again falling in love with the band. Redspencer doesn’t let up for a second. Their songs maintain a constant, rather high degree of quality. Consistently entertaining, listenable, and refreshing, Perks is perfect in form –now we just need more.
The closing tracks are an incredible departing experience. “Some People,” begins with some twinkly springs laying out a chipper, thoughtful progression along a persisting acoustic guitar. The vocals come out melodiously, a bit naturally whiney, but carefully sung and enjoyable. Overall the song is extremely colorful and creates one hell of a build before the farewell. “Convenience,” is very acoustic driven and trades beachy in for a pleasant, mid-tempo, scamper in the woods –something a la that Fleet Foxes EP that nobody ever seems to remember. It’s a bit of another changeup and yet the Redspencer style prevails and keeps this sort of upbeat, relaxed, buddies-jamming atmosphere. Overall, a fantastic listen.
Perks is one of the most refreshing albums to be released this year. Redspencer managed to build an incredibly consistent set of impressive tunes. The songs are diverse in style, while not straying into odd tangents. Furthermore, the instruments work together so well that the band depicts an incredible chemistry. The songs are charming and just really grab you with this sense of familiarity –it’s lovely.
If you’re looking for stocking stuffers for the music nerd –consider Redspencer’s Perks. The album’s sunny vibes and diverse tracks will keep your listener cheerful and entertained for hours. Worth not just one listen, but maybe two or three –Perks offers a carefully constructed textural experience that delivers soundscapes doused in jangly guitar. Pop those headphones on for yourself and kickback, Redspencer will leave you feeling refreshed.