Release Date: Feb 26, 2016
Record label: Mexican Summer
It’s a risky experiment to kick an album off with a mellower resonance than where it leads you. Yet like every single morning of your entire life, Plaza begins tentatively, curious in its skin and heavy-lidded. “Passersby,” the opening song, by vibe is an awakening, driven as it is by such lullabying sonic qualities as wiry guitars and flittering strings, approximating a rouse from some deep creative slumber.
The four members that make up Boston’s Quilt have always been an collaborative bunch. Across their first two albums, Anna Fox Rochinski, Shane Butler, John Andrews and Keven Lareau moulded themselves into an undefinable group, thoroughly influenced by the improvisational scene that grew from within their city in the last decade. Now with their third record, ‘Plaza’, Quilt have filtered their idiosyncratic tendencies into a melting pot of alternative-pop, with considerably prosperous effect.
After spending much of 2014 on the road touring in support of Held in Splendor, Quilt began working on songs for their third album in a historic building in Atlanta -- a long way from their Boston home base. Being so far from home may have contributed to the rootless, restless feeling underpinning Plaza; nearly all of its songs are about being in flux. "Are you looking for an answer? Are you looking for a cure? Maybe you should want more," Anna Fox Rochinski sings on the prickly "O'Connor's Barn," while Shane Butler sighs "I'll be fine in confusion" on "Padova" as a harp underscores his fragile state of mind.
When a band reaches into its box of old demos on hitting the third-album mark, that’s usually a sign that either the ideas have started to run low or that the musicians are no longer getting together to write songs as often as they once did. Likewise, groups of songs spanning several years often fail to hang together as a coherent whole. The third album from indie/psych/folk quartet Quilt might come from old demos, but it bucks these common trends by showing that disparity can serve as a creative asset.
Quilt’s dual songwriting engine of Anna Fox Rochinski and Shane Butler has taken the Boston band through two albums and many miles of touring fueled by certain flower power sensibilities, but Plaza proves that the ‘psych rock’ tag doesn’t sum them up as well it used to. “Roller” is the most obvious leap forward; a bouncing indie pop New Year’s resolution to get un-tied down. A bit of dream pop reverb is thrown on Rochinski’s voice at key moments, but the paisley flourishes are otherwise kept mostly to the margins.
True to form, Quilt's third studio album, Plaza, is a psychedelic jet plane ride back in time to the late '60s. The Boston-born group's sound is hypnotic, a mellow, feel-good experience to be shared with friends in a colorful room adorned with lava lamps, and upon first listen, one might assume the band tours the country in a 1967 VW Bus. Originally comprising of multi-talented musicians Anna Fox Rochinski and Shane Butler on guitars and John Andrews on drums, the group added bass player Kevin Lareau in 2014 for the headlining tour of its sophomore album, Held in Splendor.
Head here to submit your own review of this album. Quilt bring levity to any tale that Anna Fox Rochinski or Shane Butler turn their words to. 2014's Held in Splendor contained hard-earned, yet rewarding moments of bliss. When 'Mary Mountain' eschewed its desert-psych passages to reveal the gorgeous 'Tie Up The Tides', it was pleasantly unclear that a sequenced album was playing at all.
In 2013, on the occasion of Devendra Banhart’s then-new album Mala, the New York Times surveyed the tumbleweed-strewn scene once known as freak-folk. Animal Collective were beginning their transition from drug experimenters to the coolest of dads. Joanna Newsom was making songs under ten minutes long and endearing herself to discerning public radio listeners.
With hindsight, Quilt’s sophomore effort Held In Splendor from 2014 was perhaps harshly tagged as “promising, if limited” as it clearly represented a step-up from the 2011 eponymous debut. The joint vocal harmonisation from Anna Fox Rochinksi, Shane Butler and John Andrews was of particular interest, a fresher ingredient added to the late 1960s psychedelic era sounds the band delve into, a genre that has been subject to much over-mining since the recent modern revival took hold. The Boston quartet’s third album Plaza was done and dusted by the time the English summer came around last year.
Boston four-piece Quilt might look like 90s slackers but they make the kind of music more fitting to a group that look like say, Bubble Puppy – all harps and 60s intervals, reedy vocals and a clear debt to classic, traditional folk. On their third album their sound is divided right down the middle, with affecting results dependent on which of their leads – male or female – is taking vocal duties. Anna Fox Rochinski’s tracks are the best ones here by a long stretch, her voice (and songs) an easy comparison with Jane Weaver or Cate Le Bon.
If last month was teeming with a strong assortment of bouncy electro pop, then this one was chock-full of indie rock releases. Carl wasn't too impressed with most of these month's rock-oriented offerings, including Wolfmother's brazen return, while Juan was somewhat disappointed with those that ….