Release Date: Sep 6, 2011
Record label: Jagjaguwar
Genre(s): Folk, Indie Rock
Peter Wolf Crier has informed me I’m a hypocrite. Seriously, it’s not a quote from one of their songs; I have realized I’m full of shit after listening to the band’s new album, Garden of Arms. Just recently, I reviewed Los Angeles duo Pepper Rabbit’s new album and complained that there’s an oversaturation of two-man bands in the music scene right now, and even with accolades to the group for having the talent to produce music by its lonesome, my argument was that there’s only so much that can be done under these terms without eventually sounding like a DJ-infused beat orchestra.
Peter Wolf Crier's debut record, 2010's Inter-Be, was interesting because felt incomplete. With its rough hewn mix of thundering drums and ragged guitars, with songs like "Demo 01" and "Untitled 101," it sounded like the band was just getting started. Their sophomore record, Garden of Arms, confirms that notion. This is a completely different record, so much so the band is nearly unrecognizable as the same duo from a year ago.
The second outing from the duo of Peter Pisano and Brian Moen, better known as Peter Wolf Crier, sounds born of urgency, probably due, in part, to the group’s grueling 2010 tour schedule, which found the pair staging 100 shows in six short months. Icy, melancholy, and jagged, Garden of Arms feels cut from the same cold compress as Radiohead's Amnesiac, trying to squeeze some humanity out of an endless array of snaky guitar licks, blips and bleeps, and processed beats, but with the primal vigor of a band not yet tainted by the machine. Key cuts like “Krishnamurti,” “Settling It Off,” and “Hard Heart” find a successful balance between moody, Berlin-ear Bowie melodies, Black Keys-informed attack and brevity and Dodos-esque experimentalism, and the rest of the album, despite a few detours into semi-indulgent, atonal glitch that shakes the fluidity of the record yet never really derails the train, keeps looking forward, hoping to find a light at the end of the tunnel, while knowing full well that it’s only the first of many.
Peter Pisano started the pseudo-self-titled Peter Wolf Crier after writing five songs in one night and bringing them to engineer Brian Moen to produce a solo album. Instead, Moen wound up drumming for Pisano’s debut, Inter-Be. The band’s sophomore release Garden of Arms was developed after Peter Wolf Crier’s grueling 2010 tour schedule. Physical and emotional wear and tear drive the album, and the turmoil brought the two musicians together.
For their 2010 debut Inter-Be, Peter Pisano and Brian Moen of Peter Wolf Crier sat down and, in one night, churned out a series of solid, vintage-sounding folk songs. Then, the Minneapolis duo played 100 shows in a six-month span and-- with "a new-found footing of confidence and experimentation," according to the press release-- sat down and recorded Garden of Arms. The confidence in their new record is clear, if only because their vocals sound more boisterous than ever, but for the most part, the experimentation is the problem.
I’m not exactly certain why heavily reverb-inflected vocals have become an indie rock staple, but it’s quite clearly become the case. Done well, it’s quite nice, but you won’t find much of that here. On Garden of Arms, Peter Wolf Crier seem to have replaced vocal melody with vocal reverb, and it leads to some moments that seem promising initially but quickly fade into that same boring funk (and I don’t mean funk in the literal sense of funk music.) There are certainly some interesting dynamics at play, but every good moment is tempered by one that just gets to be a bit much.