Release Date: Nov 13, 2012
Record label: Woodsist
The Babies create indie folk tunes that are, on the surface, sweet. Yet where Vivian Girls’ Cassie Ramone and Woods’ Kevin Morby display a refined talent is in having their most morbid thoughts still shimmer with a youthful glow. Fuzzy while never saccharine, Our House on the Hill dispels any notion of a sophomore slump. With the entrance of bassist Brian Schleyer, and solid, plucky guitarlines, the result is a sumptuous follow-up, particularly with “Get Lost,” while “Slow Walkin” hits as a rambling soundtrack to aimless highway drives.
Despite their hectic day job schedules, Vivian Girls' Cassie Ramone and Woods' Kevin Morby found time to once again knock out a second album as the Babies. On Our House on the Hill, the songs sound like they were written a few days before, instead of the day-of, which is to say the arrangements sound more thought-out and the hooks more pronounced, without losing the immediacy of their self-titled debut. They've also crawled up a couple notches on the fidelity scale.
My first inkling that Our House on the Hill would find the Babies offering something of a middle-ground between country music and their debut's kinetic garage rock came in January, at Downtown Manhattan's storied Clocktower Gallery. There I watched them perform on the occasion of a Western-themed multimedia exhibit, "Canyon Candy", which included cacti, a coyote, and audio samples of yodeling. The band, fronted by Woods bassist Kevin Morby alongside Vivian Girls' Cassie Ramone, played with a projection of the 1984 drama Paris, Texas, and for a portion of the set Morby wore a cowboy hat.
The BabiesOur House On The Hill[Woodsist; 2012]By Colin Joyce; November 26, 2012Purchase at: Insound (Vinyl) | Amazon (MP3 & CD) | iTunes | MOGTweetFrom the beginning, as early as 2008‘s “Meet Me In The City” single, the appropriateness of the Babies simplistic moniker has been quite evident. Both in the youthful abandon of their songwriting and the gleefully adolescent lyricism, Cassie Ramone (of Vivian Girls) and Kevin Morby (of Woods) have brewed a particularly potent version of your older brother’s garage rock band, and on Our House On The Hill it’s more of the same. It’s a tried and true rock n’ roll formula that they trade in, but for every stale chord progression or clunker of a lyric, Morby and Ramone make up for it tenfold in their ever insistent vocal interplay and general emphasis on the good ol’ beer tossing, fuzzy singalong camaraderie of garage bands of years past.
It’s not unreasonable to want to underestimate a band like The Babies. It’s already hard enough to truly be impressed by the throngs of jangly guitar-pop bands emerging out of Brooklyn these days, but when said band goes by the name “The Babies,” which could suggest a lacking of any desire to mature, you’re not left with much that helps the group stand out amongst their peers in any significant way. Previously, the group did little to dispel this notion, as their 2011 self-titled debut, a scrappy, lo-fi collection of sunny indie pop, offered a few catchy moments but was incredibly forgettable otherwise.
As the Babies move further away from being publicly perceived as a lighthearted side project of Vivian Girls' Cassie Ramone and Woods' Kevin Morby, their sound also takes on a more realized and purposeful feel. While the Babies' songs are deeply rooted in the same elements that inform their parent bands, sophomore record Our House on the Hill moves past the sum-of-its-parts amalgam that made up their first album. Operating more as a unit, their drifty, rootsy moments seem less like direct references to Woods' deeper psychedelia, and their girl group-inspired moments are far too jangly and creeped out to ever work in the context of the Vivian Girls.
Everything in The Babies’ “career” up to this point has felt very much like a side project. With a collection of songs of varying degrees of quality and fidelity, the band seemed little more than an enjoyable, albeit forgettable, way for its members to blow off steam fueled by their more high-profile gigs—Kevin Morby’s Woods and Cassie Ramone’s Vivian Girls. No shame in that.
THE BABIES play the Silver Dollar on Friday (November 16). See listing. Rating: NNN The Babies started as a self-described side project, a chance for Kevin Morby of Woods and Cassie Ramone of the Vivian Girls to "trade song ideas and play house parties." On their second album, they're selling the Babies as a real band, with all that comes with it: fleshed-out production, a full touring schedule and more focused songs.
The Babies are Woods bassist Kevin Morby and Vivian Girls vocalist Cassie Ramone, who joined forces in early 2011 and knocked off a self-titled debut of brash, hooky guitar-pop. Less than half an hour in length, the debut mostly capitalized on its fast-and-loose slacker aesthetic; even in its restrained moments (“Voice Like Thunder”, “Sick Kid”), the Babies sounded ramshackle, raw, casually disaffected. And after two years of aggressive touring — capped off with two weeks of work with producer Rob Barbato in L.A.
Brooklyn’s Babies might’ve begun as the quiet side project of Vivian Girls’ Cassie Ramone and Woods’ Kevin Morby, but it has since proved otherwise. Having recently released the follow-up album to 2011’s self-titled debut, the band has a new release, Our House On The Hill, that has growth written all over it. Between Morby’s folksy background and Ramone’s garage roots, Our House On The Hill finally taps into that natural mixture between the two.
The humble side-project is surely the purest of all. Free from the constraints and expectations of ‘main’ bands, it exists unencumbered by outside pressures, solely because playing – and releasing – music is, after all, fun. That’s why The Babies’ second long-player, ‘Our House on the Hill’ shines - a fun little record, resplendent in its throwaway charm.It is, of course, also the sum of its parts; The Babies’ main protagonists are Cassie Ramone of Vivian Girls and Woods’ bassist Kevin Morby.