by Joe Gutierrez (@j_gutierz)
Once or twice every year I stumble upon a track so captivating that I play it over and over, sometimes for hours, days, weeks. It completely sucks up my attention, and when it's not playing on my computer or through my phone, whatever lines and measures I can remember are on repeat in my head, soundtracking the menial mundane going-ons throughout my day. This is what happened with “Flak Bait” by Calgrove. Turns out, falling head over heels for this track meant opening up a door into another musical world that has since kept me invested and entrenched. Wind Vane is one of the best slices of Americana indie rock to grace the twenty-first century and I can say I'm now a devoted lifelong member of the Calgrove fan club.
Calgrove pulls aside the curtains with three bursts of sound before diving into “Hot,” a spirited folk-rock ditty that chugs along with brightly splintered lead guitar before cannonballing into a swirly sweet chorus. The band's got wonderful control of space and silence, breaking and breathing before diving back into the progression. “Back It Up” arrives next, like a raucous tornado on the horizon, a haunting and somber rock number. Something akin to some of Neil Young and Crazy Horses's best work together- particularly that guitar solo, like a malfunctioning power-line grabbed by bare hands, as if to lasso this cyclone of impending doom. “Cry” hits like a sunrise, a lighter country affair, glowing with conviction and affection. The toe-tapping head-bobber sits perfectly in the center of the record, its players tightly focused and in sync, a prime example of the sublime chemistry they share.
Then there's “Flak Bait”. What really gets me is that vivid teeth clenching sincerity of the thing. The sun-soaked grit and rasp in the sweet voice of these characters, drinking beers in the pool hall of their small town. It just coasts along on this backwoods groove swimming in pedal steel. The way they repeat “billiard ball” like it’s some sacred sphere from which you're bound to get a glimpse of the future. There's this vocal interplay that is just not present at all in contemporary country. It’s like, sure, anyone could sing some two-bit harmonies, but these two- they just totally take advantage of their vocal prowess. The anticipation of the pauses and the delivery, how that just unites with the lead guitar to build into this bonanza of flipped firewood spark light.
Don’t even get me started on this title track. It’s like waking up in the morning and going straight into an infinite yawn and stretch, just feeling your spirit grow bigger and bigger until you break through the ceiling and your fingertips hit the sky. Akin to breaking the fourth wall in some bizarro Western film, you can actually hear the Calgrove singers punctuate the final chorus with: “Alright, that's good.” “That's it for singin'.” The kicker's that for the next five minutes or so, the band launches into this phenomenal aural tribute to Americana, constructing a grand quilt of melody and harmony. Pedal steel and keyboard and guitar and bass and drums all come together to carve out this musical monument from space and time. It's these last five minutes that truly set Calgrove apart from other bands of their genre today. That's something I'm gonna be shouting at the top of my lungs for a long, long time.