It Looks Sad. - It Looks Sad EP

It Looks Sad. eschews apathetic vox, pairs familiar beach riffs against the adrenalized voice of Jimmy Turner.

Additional Info

8.5

ALBUM: It Looks Sad EP

ARTIST: It Looks Sad.

2014

Alternative

Tiny Engines, North Carolina label home of Hotelier and Little Big League, inaugurates Charlotte’s It Looks Sad.’s debut with a breezy four-track self-titled EP. ILS is happy to brand itself as heirs to Surfer Blood, but while these songs appear as shimmery torsion springs, the pop possesses an off-key kilter and broodiness that betrays the comparison. The songs’ front halves are constructed with spare intros that evolve into reverberating verses, jittery bridges, and fleet choruses. Tracks two and three feature middle eights with DIIV-like tremolo tendrils while tracks one and four opt for up-tempo rushes of sentimentality.

The most promising element of this debut is the synergistic riff composition, which contrasts with oft-unhinged vocalist Jimmy Turner. While the coastal beach pop ambience is familiar terrain, Turner’s fluctuations of mood—per track: 1) morbid and sentimental; 2) sexy and sacrificial; 3) existential and terrified; 4) abandoned and sentimental—are all tinged with romantic abandon that prompts listeners to brace themselves.

Turner’s quietude can have a dimming effect on the guitars’ consciousness, but drummer Garrett Herzfeld (and Vince D’Ambrosio on “Raccoon”) trawl over stretches of silence as melody reposes before high-energy spans at the buzzer.

It’s hard to believe that It Looks Sad.’s sullen declarative name was shortened from an even more wonky: ‘It Looks Sad, That’s Why I Said It’s You.’ Then again, the consistently melodramatic lyrical offerings from this album (“you cut me up inside” or “I am your ocean”) leave one finger-crossed for future aims at refinement by the time Tiny Engine’s coaxes out ILS’s debut LP.

“We both are Florida born. I don’t know if it’s just chemicals, but the water never left my soul. I still hear it when I’m all alone. I’m alone.”

1. Radical
Opening with just a few clear chords and Jimmy Turner’s sliding megaphonic voice, the It Looks Sad EP announces its central theme: “Just trying to sleep / out on my deathbed / been hungry for a week / I want to go back / back to the dirt.” By the time the guitars add reverb and drums initiate a brisker beat, any misgiving the listener has that “Radical” is in the vein of Saves the Day’s “At Your Funeral” is curtailed. Turner sing-songs in a fleet chorus: “I ask why /do we die” while Real Estate guitar melodies echo the lyrics. After the second chorus, snappy snare agitates Turner’s voice, turning him manic at first (see Strand of Oak’s “Goshen ‘97”), then completely unhinged as robust screaming contrasts (but never competes) with the beach riffs.9.8
2. Fingers
D-flat, A / B, F-sharp. Repeat. These four notes dictate the first minute of this song, combing like searchlights over Turner’s voice. Here, he sounds like an off-key but sedate Daryl Palumbo of Glassjaw. The song is more intimate than the last: “Your fingers touched my skin / You’re coming home again.” As the song accelerates, the four defining notes interplay with high-pitched tremolo piercing above arpeggio, and the Beach Fossils ambience is just enough to distract from the melodramatic lyrics: “I felt the knife go in / you cut me up inside.”7.0
3. Raccoon
This song opens like any one of the tracks from DIIV’s Oshin, albeit a little more shimmery and playful, and appropriately so since Turner returns to romanticizing the second person of these songs. “Flowers in your hair / you’re slurring your speech,” Turner sings after air gushes from an open hi-hat tempo. It’s Turner, though, that seems to be slurring his speech as he sings: “Cause if I let my guard down / will you ____ me?” He either sings ‘marry’ or ‘bury’, the wordplay quick, conflating the disparate diction. (It is ‘bury’ in the end.) The verses are a little more belabored than DIIV, possessing the world-weary toil of Lotus Plaza. Eventually, though, the DIIV-y staccato notes rejoin, turn to speed picking runs, which then turn into shiny tremolo, all these differences appreciable and ecstatic.9.2
4. Ocean
“Ocean” is more plodding than the last three songs, but the tension in Turner’s voice, accented by articulated bar chords’ unraveling riffs, drags verses to soundscapes uncharted since post-hardcore vocalist Adam Lazzara. The rage from “Radical” is reprised in this song when, at the three-minute mark, the power of diaphragm buttresses a weak metaphor (“I am your ocean”). Again, the contrast between desperate screams and Surfer Blood’s “Miranda” riffage defines the inchoate and compelling aesthetic of It Looks Sad.’s debut EP.7.8
Written by Lawrence Lenhart
Lawrence Lenhart received his MFA in Creative Writing at the University of Arizona, where he was the editor-in-chief of Sonora Review. He is the recipient of two Foundation Awards, two Taube Awards, and the Laverne Harrell Clark Award in Fiction.

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