You can’t help but wonder about a band called the Shaky Hands. Are they a pack of boozehounds, fighting off the DTs the morning after? Are they just skittish bundles of frayed nerves? Doubtful. Judging by this Portland, Oregon-based quintet’s infectious and ramshackle debut, the band members are trembling from their sheer enthusiasm for making music, like spirit-stricken born-agains at a revivalist tent meeting. Led by Castanets guitarist Nick Delffs, the Shaky Hands play loose, emphatic rock full of sing-song melodies. It’s a blend of elegance and spontaneity that conjures early Pavement. But the Shaky Hands’ music is rooted in a fully digested love of sun-drenched ’60s pop.
Opener “Whales Sing” is owned by a steady, less-is-more rhythm section. As an organ drones over the bouncing bass, there’s ample space for Delff’s quivering timbre to map out the soaring (if strained) melody. And when he intermittently colors the song with messy, squealing guitar runs, it’s all icing. Weighting the best songs toward the beginning with a trio of nearly flawless tracks, the album spreads out into more diverse territory from there. “We Will Rise” and the two-part “Another World” wind up slowly with extended introductions before blossoming into fuller arrangements. Violin and flutes breathe texture into quieter, acoustic-based pieces. Of course, the straight-ahead rock of “Whales Sing” and the contagious “Why & How Come” resurfaces in the crunch of “Host Your Day” and the frenetic “Hold It Up.”
Unlike other bands excavating classic pop and rock — Philadelphia’s Dr. Dog and fellow Portlanders the Village Green spring to mind — the members of the Shaky Hands are never overly reverent about their influences. In other words, the music the band is making is undeniably its own. Deeply melodic and catchy as hell, these songs beam with excitement and energy. Which means they achieve a feat too rare in indie rock today: They make you really happy.