New To Us – Quilt

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Who?
When Quilt first formed they were a duo consisting of Shane Butler and Anna Fox Rochinski, who share the majority of songwriting and singing duties between them. In the latest line up of the band they’re joined by bassist Keven Lareau and drummer John Andrews.

What?
A question that perhaps even Quilt themselves would struggle to answer. Whether it’s the product of having multiple songwriters or just a restless desire to never repeat themselves, Quilt are a band who dabble in numerous genres and styles. Upcoming album Plaza goes from psych-folk to Spector-like girl-group R&B, sun-drenched Byrds-like folk to lo-fi Pavement slacker rock.

Where?
Quilt formed when Shane and Anna had a chance meeting at a gig in Boston, and have continued to be based out of the Massachusetts capital city. Boston is one of the oldest cities in the United States and can lay claim to the countries first public school, lighthouse and subway system. Boston University Bridge in the city has a unique claim to fame being the only place in the world where a boat can sail under a train going underneath a car, which is in turn driving below a plane. Music has always been hugely popular in Boston, the cities Symphony Orchestra being considered one of the greatest in the world, whilst famous pop acts from the city include The Lemonheads, The Pixies, New Kids on the Block and of course Boston.

When?
Quilt formed at the back end of 2008, and released their self-titled debut album in 2011 via Mexican Summer. Their second album Held In Splendor, produced by James Tavenier of Woods, followed in 2014. Their latest album Plaza is out this week, again via Mexican Summer.

Why?
Plaza is an apt title for the latest Quilt album, it’s a record that sounds like a place where different musical ideas are coming together. Like a cross-roads for the varied musical ideas of numerous talented musicians. Some bands sound like they have a singular vision, Quilt work differently, as if the band and producer have come together and worked to maximise each individuals own strengths.

Plaza is a record that never stands still, opening track Passerby merges the sound of post-Maharishi Beatles with the 1960’s psych-folk of Pentangle; jazzy flutes and warbling guitars improvising freely over a propulsive drum beat and pulsing, swelling drones. The record goes straight from that hazy atmospheric piece into the album’s poppiest moment, Roller. Fusing Courtney Barnett’s guitar chug with the more accessible moments of Here We Go Magic, it’s a shimmering joy of a track, and one that Anna’s vocal, pitched somewhere between Charlie Hilton and Cate Le Bon, is perfectly suited to.

O’Connor’s Barn, a fictional tale of falling in love with a charmingly eery cult leader, inspired by the writing of Raymond Carver, is a track the band have admitted themselves is a mishmash of ideas written separately and then gelled together later, which would explain how it manages to sound simultaneously like The Velvelettes and Talking Heads. Something There has the easy-going West Coast jangle of The Byrds, Padova a hazy atmospheric piece laced with a quietly unspoken sadness, whilst closing track Own Ways starts off like Simon & Garfunkell and ends up as a discordant wall of noise that The Velvet Underground would be proud of.

Best of all is the album’s first single Elliot St, which blends the laid back jangle of The Shins with the swooning sting-laden pop of Lee Hazlewood. The track places Shane’s vocals to the fore as he spins a tale of the isolation that can come from a relationship that was never meant to be but carried on regardless. In an album that’s full of ideas it’s on this track that they are at their most clear and concise.

Why Not?
At times the record can just feel a little hyperactive, they’re a band who seem to have no desire to settle into an idea, even within individual songs they can at times sound a little incoherent. That said having too many great ideas is a problem most bands would love to have, and with repeat listens the personality of both these talented songwriters slowly reveal themselves and the album starts to make considerably more sense.

Plaza is out February 26th via Mexican Summer. Quilt tour the UK in May, click HERE for details.

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