On Loose in the Air, the Double has attenuated the noise and cranked up the once-obscured songs. This may be bad news for the purists, but it’s a blessing for everyone waiting for a great record from this Brooklyn band.
Last year’s Palm Fronds was a beautifully packaged, long-awaited platter. New Yorkers who had seen the Double play expected that the record might even sound like the band sounded live. But as luck would have it, the drummer “hurt his hand” and the members let a drum machine vomit all over their record. Since the drum machine had already made the album sound grainy and obtuse, they must’ve thrown caution to the wind and recorded everything else through blown speakers, rendering the record (with the exception of opener “Blanket on the Beach”) a test of the listener’s fortitude. But “Blanket on the Beach” was good enough to make Palm Fronds worthwhile, and it was a preview of the sound the Double would display on Loose in the Air, the band’s second album and first for Matador.
What we have here is ten songs whose rockness would sound more at home on Star Time International and whose quirk would fit nicely on Merge. That Matador released it means only the Double will break up or go crazy before long. (Doesn’t it seem like that label has become an eerie graveyard of sorts, where it once had an indie-rock-softball-team vibe? Check its “active roster,” comprised mostly of defunct bands, licensing deals from Canucks and Brits, and a few electro-misfits. Yo La Tengo seems to be the only real Matador band left.)
“Up All Night,” Loose in the Air‘s opener, sounds almost the same as “Blanket on the Beach,” which is nice, because it feels like we are getting a chance to hear the previous album the way it should be. But this song starts to do a Constantines-“Nighttime/Anytime”-distorted-rock-out thing after about two minutes. This is going to be good.
“Idiocy” should be the single. It makes great use of a reverb-y guitar squeal that whines for the first thirty seconds and then intermittently throughout the song. Dinosaur guitar riffs fight for position atop a very poppy keyboard phrase and roll-heavy drum backbone. Every now and then, the vocals do a solo Malkmus thing and the chorus sounds like a Pinkerton B-side.
The Double really shines when the tension between different fidelities is apparent. On Palm Fronds the fuzz-noise-lightning-crackle too frequently won, but on Loose in the Air, the synthesis is often perfect. Things slow down after “Idiocy” until three-and-a-half minutes into the sixth track, “Hot Air,” when it starts to destroy (three-and-a-half minutes is about the average length of the songs on the first half of the album). This same form is seen again on “Dance,” but this time starting with less, giving you more and taking longer than seven minutes to do so. It might be a little long, but it fits nicely in this position before the encore.
The fact that the last song is named “Busty Beasty,” that you can hear bullfrogs in the studio, that its star instrument is a harp (of sorts), and that the harp plays so well with the electric keyboard makes this song one of the album’s most interesting points. This is the soundtrack for a dream sequence in The Muppets Take Matador. Kermit and Ralph are sitting in a boat, surrounded by Muppet versions of Pollard, Malkmus and now the Double, singing “The Rainbow Connection.” The boat is the Queen Mary, the setting Long Beach, California. This is All Tomorrow’s Parties when Trash Heap from Fraggle Rock curates.