by Kris Handel (@khandel84)
On II, Baked bring the listener their familiar reverb driven and hazy take on garage psych but cranked up a notch and tightened into punchy little packages. R.J. Gordon and Isabella Mingione switch off vocals (as well as Jeremy Aquilino) and push through their own emotional attachments and letdowns in increasingly compelling and maturing fashion. Baked still bring the pounding rhythm and motorik repetition on this EP, but some surprising melodies and brightened vocals add another ingredient that provides a new flourish. II carries a significantly lighter environment than Farnham, their previous full length which was a remembrance of a friend that passed,
“Thus Far Been” starts the EP off with a breezy whistling that gives way to Gordon’s relaxed drawl and Mingione's sweeping keyboards interplaying with the crunching guitar and tempo changes. The band throw a bit of looping country rhythms that sway in and out of the overdriven guitar shards to nice effect. “Hope You’re Happy” affords Mingione the opportunity to let off some steam over a relationship that may not have had the cleanest of outcomes, which comes through her forceful and sharp vocal performance. The loping and almost cathartically happy melody belies the disappointment and questioning in Mingione’s performance, and the song ends abruptly with Mingione declaring “…Then I realized I was never free.” Mingione takes on the vocal task for “Good for You” with its lyrical and vocal approach bringing a biting and sarcastic intensity that isn’t going to suffer any nonsense from anyone out there. The band lays down the foundation with heavy distortion cut through with the occasional stuttering guitar break and keyboard interweaving, dancing little melodies playfully wind around the muscular rhythm section.
II shows the growth in Baked’s song crafting that is very respectable and plays up the focused and sharpened performances on this release. Baked still retain their muscular arrangements and stomping rhythms, but the addition of some poppier harmonies adds a new dimension. Clocking in at just under 18 minutes, Baked have crafted a set of songs that reach a new depth and developmental growth that is honestly exciting. II is an EP that shows Baked are a band that continues to grow with every release and are blossoming into a force to be reckoned with and that should be welcomed with open arms.