March 29 2016 03:34 PM

‘For Margaret’ is at its best when they get a little weird

A lot of what passes for indie rock today is tinted with a distinct shade of beige. In the aftermath of beach indie and chillwave, a lot of underground, guitar-based bands (or synth-based, it's not an exclusive trait) have settled into a comfortable and polite valley where everything sounds nice but nothing really leaves much of an impact. You can call it post-National if you like, or KCRW-core, neither of which is an official name by any means but should give you some idea of what I'm getting at.

I was a little worried that's what I'd be getting into when listening to The Verigolds' For Margaret. The leadoff track from the album, titled "Gloom," is a perfectly pleasant track, juxtaposing male and female vocals, jangly guitars and a lot of reverb. The production is crisp and pristine, and its hooks catchy enough. But I'm left to utter the same lament I have been about a lot of indie rock of late: It just doesn't leave that much of an impact.

None of For Margaret is all that loud or heavy, but the initial disappointment I had with "Gloom" is remedied not long thereafter. "All the Same" finds the band adopting some unexpectedly vintage-sounding synthesizers a la early Depeche Mode, which blend interestingly with the song's slow-burning progression and light psychedelia. Jenna Cotton takes the helm on vocals, and her ethereal delivery seems better suited to the somewhat weirder, atmospheric sounds than Eliot Ross. Now we're getting somewhere.

The more The Verigolds experiment with arrangement, the better the results. "Skypipe" finds an unusual mixture of acoustic guitar, mandolin, violin and vibraphone, and it's absolutely gorgeous, once again made even stronger due to Cotton's vocals. And the six-minute "Desert Song" showcases one of the band's best melodies, layered over with barroom piano, synth and Hammond organ, wrapping this space rocker in keyboards upon keyboards.

The Verigolds work best when giving their songs some room to breathe, which better highlights their idiosyncrasies. They have good songs—many of them—on For Margaret, but they could also stand to get a little weirder. For a self-described "Neo Psych/Alt/Indie/Folk Gaze Wave" band, The Verigolds have nothing to lose by fucking things up a little.


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