There's a sense of brimming energy, restive and restless, just bubbling under the surface of In Between Frames. Not to say there's anything sleepy about the EP's quick, five-song jaunt—just that there seems to be a concerted effort towards restraint. The result is something delicate and vulnerable. Rather than a quick EP as an extended preview of a full-length, here is a coherent, concerted effort—a vignette, of sorts—that finds a versatile band exploring a soft, lush side with intuitively build songs that fit together tightly.
The Wall Chargers hail from a from a Venn diagram-like corner of the South, where Arkansas, Louisiana and Texas abut (it's been coined “Ark-La-Tex”), their sound every bit the amalgamation that their surroundings are. There're strong roots influences as well as the pedal steel twang of classic country—but there's also some rock and rhythm, gospel and sweeping suggestions of baroque. Despite being such a musical mutt, the band manages to maintain the gait of a purebred, making the mixture of influences sound like most logical, intuitive thing.
In Between Frames sets the tone with a diverse and poignant opener. “Lighthouse” starts with a sad, sashaying horn that finds hope as it begins to harmonize with another, before a guitar ringing in changes the focus and the drums tumble forward, with reedy-but-full vocals hot on the heels. It's a beautiful way to open an album: it establishes a landscape, paints a horizon and gently invites you in—all in under 30 seconds.
The Wall Chargers find distinction in a full sound with a more minimalistic approach—they create open spaces and are less prone towards filling every nook. Vocally there are often similarities with Grizzly Bear, although without the multi-part harmonies that band is known for. The horns and background instrumentation remind me of Father John Misty's fabulous 2015 release, I Love You, Honeybear, but without opting for the full orchestral effect on this album.
The tracks are all effective at building, adding layers and filling out quite a bit by the end. So, while the album takes a decidedly roots-y turn at the onset of the second track, by the end it's filled out with horns and harmonies, providing an effective transition to the third track “Counterweight.” That song stands as a steady fulcrum at the center of the album, taking a semi-repetitive romp that allows the band to throttle intensity up and down, adjusting that slow burning simmer before fading out at the end towards the backside of the album. “Friend of Mine” is a straightforward acoustic guitar song in a Southern, Dylan-esque sort of way, while the last song, “Up & Up,” provides an apt bookend to the EP. The closer has a bit more of a tumble forward between the bass and drums, but with the guitar meandering. It's the highest energy the album showcases, still maintaining some restraint, but almost suggesting that what's to come next is sure to have a little bit more rock n’ roll flare to it.
The album was recorded in the band's hometown of Shreveport, Louisiana and is the 12th release they've put out as a loose group under one name or another. The production is simple and effective: there's not a lot of studio magic or effects visible on the surface, but surely deft hands were involved to maintain such a natural, full-yet-spacious sound. These songs were pulled from the recording process for a full-length, due out this summer on Day Old Blues Records.
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