by Joe Gutierrez (@phantomshred)
The new album from Trumansburg, New York’s Izzy True is an astounding feat, something truly special. Their third release via Don Giovanni Records (after first emerging from rad alt-country band The Realbads) shows growth in the skillful delivery of Isabel Reidy’s singing and songwriting. Reidy’s vocals astonish, quiver, and shake, stretching like saltwater taffy through one ear and out the other. They evaporate into silky soulful soirees, climbing spiral staircases constructed by drummer Angela Devivo’s knuckle-crack drum fills and builds, rounded out with bassist Kyra Skye’s bobbing riffs rolling in like high tide. Kyle Seely (of famed Philly rockers Sheer Mag) lends some phenomenal guitar playing on a few tracks and Curt Oren adds saxophone and flute throughout.
Record opener “Bobo” starts off sparse and bare-bones, like there’s something in the air, under the surface, over the horizon, just out of sight, that hasn’t quite grasped its full force and color just yet. A combination of bass and kick-drum swells underneath one repeated line soaked with anguished curiosity: “Will I be comforted?”. Guitar flickers detach space and time with the clean crackle of biting into a ripened peach. Title track “SadBad” is a warped soft rock anthem, something Stevie Nicks could’ve emitted transitioning from sleep to awake. It’s injected with just the right amount of weird interspersed jazzy chord changes, trajecting the song into ominous territories, psychedelia without sacrificing sincerity. “Grandma” is a loony spree of a song, confettied with Reidy’s vicious yelping, wobbly guitar licks, and Oren’s savage saxophone accompaniment, worthy of a Nuggets-era garage rock hit.
Fourth track, moody and mellow “Other Lover,” features intricate guitar-work over Skye’s calm and calculated bass, sustained notes gluing a puzzle together. Reidy’s singing sweetly wobbles and stutters amongst Oren’s discordant flute-playing. Next up is the fast-paced, buzzy, and confrontational “Clover,” its most impressive aspects the soft/loud dynamics in the second verse. Feedback lingers like steam in city streets. The song’s outro is special in that its vocal part is sung differently each measure, slight variations in melody that settle into a punctuating line resembling hymns from visiting angels. On lagoon-like “Everyone Dumps Me,” Reidy asks, “what does it mean having you so close to me?”. Their lyrics address the pervasive uncertainty of affection and intimacy, delivered with a pained satiny croon hammering desperation home. Bellowing saxophone accompanies terrible longing with a tarnished magnificence, scraping the skin off the song like hot asphalt to smooth knees.
The mysterious “TV Cat” flickers on like a late-night cartoon show, featuring barely-there backing vocals, spooky guitar effects, and a phenomenally delivered emphasis on the word “ritual,” drawing it out with a terrifying “ssssshhhhhhh”. The track highlights the impressive relationships between Reidy’s vocal delivery and the rhythm section, a flawless chemistry of space and timing. “Funny Thing” is a gum-ball machine of a song with glorious piano accompaniment, the notes maneuvering elegantly through folds of sound. Extra special are Devivo’s thumping tom hits in the chorus, a freaky bouncing interlude, and Reidy’s howls of wordless vocalizing after the lyrics “make a sound”. I love the way in which closing track “How Dare You” begins: like rocket thrusters erupting flames, a launch into accusatory remarks bellowed beautifully, rising into a chorus of hollers sliced up by razor sharp guitar interlude. The harmonies set the chorus on fire, escalating the intensity soaking Reidy’s words.
Sad Bad contains the same deep dark versatility and spirit as the works of Patti Smith and Grace Slick. The record unravels like the sensation of room-invading sunlight burning out and being replaced by the twist of a lamp switch on. It’s like catching a glimpse of shadow on the wall and chuckling at how close your form’s been captured. The songs will creep up on you when things are still and quiet, setting off gentle sparks in your mind. This one is not to be missed.