It begins with Pelham’s trademark muppet voice: “So here we are. It’s like we never really left at all.” So it begins: a simple, one-minute intro to the new album by The Features. From there, we kick into a half-snarled “Drawing Board,” a song about starting over. And with these two songs, we’ve pretty much been told where the band is at: Without a label, and trying out a staged release process, first digital on Amazon, now vinyl, and, in 2009, an actual CD pressing. This is an obvious attempt to build an audience at a time when fewer people are buying music, either because they steal it or because there are so many competitor markets out there (or, most likely, a combination of both), and fewer labels are hyping fewer artists. But this is also a boon time for experimentation, and a great time to be an indie band because blogs like this one are willing, or, in this case, eager, to offer international coverage.
I’ve loved The Features for years. They make interesting pop rock, without pretension and focused on hooks and groove. Perhaps that’s why the third track, “Foundation’s Cracked,” is so remarkable. It’s got a 1960s psychedelic vibe, like something off the great “Nuggets” collection. The next song, “GMF,” is more classic Features—powerful licks and vocals that go from a snarl to a cry and back again. And before the album closes, you’ll hear the near-gospel of “The Temporary Blues;” the driving blues of “Wooden Heart;” the slow and beautiful “Gates of Hell;” the folkie “Baby’s Hammer;” and the indie rocker “Lions,” which should be on everyone’s best of 2008 playlist. Oh, and I have to mention the strange and creepy “Concrete.” On this wonderful album, you can everything from Blind Melon to The Shins to Axl Rose to The Standells. If you want the same old same old, skip it. If you want to be excited, surprised, and, of course, be forced to make room on your “Best of 2008” playlist, then this is the record for you.
On September 30th, it will get a double vinyl release with a bonus record and an mp3 download card of the album. Preorder here.
Trust me when I say this is an album you need to hear. It’s almost impossible for me to pick a couple songs for you to taste, but I’m settling on GMF because the band itself is releasing that one and on “Concrete” because it’s just so amazing.