Getting right to the point, Transient Songs is a strange name for a band, and Plantation to Your Youth is a strange name for an EP. Hell, Plantation to Your Youth is a strange EP in itself. It’s a pop-psychedelic mix of distorted guitars, low-fi production, and lyrics that are, by turns, dark, dreary and depressing. But like the best psychedelic music, this stuff works like a new drug. It’s disorienting and maybe disturbing at first, but then it becomes addictive.
Plantation to Your Youth will probably wind up a forgotten artifact of indie music, because the duo apparently doesn’t tour and doesn’t seem part of any scene (although it carries on the tradition of garage sounds emanating from the Northwest). Still, the music got under my skin, largely because of the songwriting skills of Jimmy Andrews and John Frum (the latter of whom played guitar for Fort Worth, Texas, indie cult rockers Hasslehorse).
Most heavy music is based on riffs and shouting, but what these guys do is write sugary melodies and then pummel them with super-heavy arrangements (think the Fleet Foxes through a distortion pedal). This technique was pioneered by the early Who, carried on by the Clash and perfected by the Jesus and Mary Chain (the new Magnetic Fields album also takes this approach). The title track, for instance, lays a delicately plucked acoustic lead guitar atop what sounds like a half dozen snarling electric guitars playing rhythm parts. “Southern City Saturdays” starts with an acoustic guitar and vocal section before moving into an entirely unrelated “main” song — after which it transitions back to the acoustic section for the ending.
The lyrics — from what can be made out — carry on the tradition of psychedelia in that they’re impressionistic portraits of lives shattered by having to deal with, you know, reality, man. Some inspiring sample couplets: “You’ve got a heart that just won’t quit/ And I’ve got a head that’s so full of shit” and “All the crying kids that you never had/ They had to get away and find their real dads.”
Plantation to Your Youth is an EP that gets better the more you listen because more things bubble to the surface: half-heard drum parts, buried guitar harmonies, and choruses that start to take on different meanings. Anyone who rues the day Pro Tools became the “industry standard” way of recording will enjoy getting lost in these thickly textured mixes, which sound like they might have come off an old Ultimate Spinach or Move record.