Rocket from the Crypt’s John Reis once said of his band’s early shows that they would intentionally play for only about twenty minutes in order to leave the audience wanting more. Although the idea was straight out of Show Biz 101, it now seems quaint in an age that embraces super-saturation.
So, small wonder that a more recent group has built a rabid following on the bare essentials. Over the last four years, Austin, Texas-based quintet Voxtrot has kept a slim discography of three limited-run EPs and singles. Granted, the band has toured for the vast majority of the last two years and networked extensively on the Internet. That said, this is hardly any different from any other “indie” buzz band. And none of Voxtrot’s members were previously in popular groups nor, to my knowledge, have any nepotistic contacts in the industry. So, what has brought about the excitement for the band’s first full-length? One particularly unique trait: great songwriting.
All Music Guide’s Tim Sendra described Voxtrot’s music as “a seminar in U.K. indie pop of the last twenty-plus years,“ which is apt considering the group’s penchant for broad guitar-pop that stretches to include atypical (by rock’s standards) chords, instrumentation, and arrangements. While the band previously manicured each song on its singles and EPs, it transitions to album-writing on its self-titled effort by spreading these hooks, bells, and whistles across almost forty-five minutes of music.
Sonically Voxtrot is still part and parcel of the group’s previous work. “Kid Gloves” is a worthy successor to the brisk rhythms and up-and-down melodies/feelings explored in the 2006 singles “Mothers, Sisters, Daughters, and Wives” and “Trouble.” Lush strings set up a wonderful counterpoint in “Introduction” and “Ghost,” much like the subtle arrangements in the Mothers, Sisters, Daughters, and Wives EP’s “Soft and Warm.” However, instead of creating an album of singles, lead songwriter Ramesh Srivastava distributes each song’s charms evenly to craft a lucid whole. Voxtrot sounds like an exercise in welcome restraint that reveals surprising turns at the turn of each track: the Costello-like “Steven” is interrupted by the punchy “Firecracker,” which in turn builds toward the turbulent “Brother in Conflict.” The writing, arrangement, and pacing is deliberate enough to create a sensible package yet light enough to invite a listener in. And, best, it leaves you wanting more.