[sic] Magazine

The Babies – Our House On The Hill

The Babies produce the sort of “proper” and “true” indie that gets the unhipsterly bearded muttering, and their second LP, Our House On The Hill , is anything but child’s play, the maturing relationship between Kevin Morby and Cassie Ramone often paying real dividends in terms of increasing subtlety and intelligence.

As such, “Get Lost” is, for example, deceptively simple yet strong guitar-based garage that breaks from its rickety tempo to peel out an echoing line like a direct come-and-get-me request to the similarly styled Captured Tracks stable. Album opener, “Alligator”, has lashings of charm interwoven between its straightforward strumming patterns too, its breezy insouciance, lovely fuzzy licks and shambling chorus borrowed no doubt from revered acts such as The Clean .

Where Morby steps back and lets Ramone lead, she inevitably steers the sound towards the Girl Group-inspired garage of her Vivian Girls day job. For proof, see the steel string shimmer in “Baby” or the magnetic call-and-response of “Chase It To The Grave”, Morby providing some back-up slacker cool and latterly spinning the track off into guitar noodling straight from his own Woods archive.

Just when you think you’ve got Our House On The Hill pegged then does it go all Dylan-esque acoustic with “Mean”, Morby’s imperfect pitch making the comparison all the more real. The track’s brief sax solo however is a surprise – mournful yet warm – much like much of the LP in fact. There’s also a second acoustic offering in the form of “That Boy”, a wistful, nasal ditty that slowly gathers pace and instrumentation, buzzing throughout with that icon of the American open road the harmonica.

Elevating the solid collection out of its niches is the brilliant “On My Team”, which packages ramshackle garage-psyche as a nugget of pure pop – the sort of thing that Velvet Underground obsessives might like to mark down as a direct descendant. Album closer “Wandering” is irresistible too, more than worthy of note with its acoustic bobbing undercut by dark cello strings and Morby’s strongest, yet ironically one his most faltering vocals.

It’s not easy to imbue songs of this nature with depth, meaning and contemporary relevance, but parts of Our House On The Hill do it wonderfully. Here’s hoping for one that Morby and Ramone continue in the direction of the cult classic they’re currently promising.

Advised downloads: “On My Team” and “Wandering”.

~Our House On The Hill is out now on Woodsist .~

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