The Weird Weeds Weird Feelings

[Sounds Are Active; 2006]

Rating: 4.5/5

Styles: folk-pop informed by free improv and modern classical
Others: Deerhoof, The Microphones, Webern and Espers in a blender

The Weird Weeds are a mysterious bunch.

Although bands like Deerhoof, Xiu Xiu, and Smog have been singing the praises of Austin, TX's Weird Weeds for some time, I imagine the hipster sheep that flock to those bands' shows only get confused and uncomfortable during a Weird Weeds performance. Songs start and stop in awkward places, one guitarist makes crazy noises with pieces of chalk, the other guitarist often plays riffs on a purposely out-of-tune guitar, and the drummer plays in and out of time like he keeps getting distracted by a squirrel. Although I'm highlighting The Weird Weeds' 'weirder' elements, they're at heart very much a song-oriented band. On their new record, Weird Feelings, the trio have refined the approach they took on both their 2005 debut, Hold Me, and the free internet-only EP they put out earlier this year and merged it with newfound senses of focus, emotional resonance, and compositional restraint.

I once described The Weird Weeds as Espers meets Storm & Stress — in other words, the group specializes in songs that feature a vaguely folky foundation (that is to say, acoustic guitars are sometimes involved, and there is an emphasis on delicately constructed chords) with enough space for the musicians involved to take detours or try out more experimental approaches than, say, your average Mountain Goats record. Songs on the new record like "Tupper" and "For You To See Me" are magnificent exercises in tension and release, possessing both downright uplifting moments at times, along with dark undercurrents bubbling just beneath the surface — on "For You to See Me," just check out guitarist Sandy Ewen's soaring harmony and the chilling build-up that follows.

My personal favorite tune on Weird Feelings, "In Your Arms," illustrates The Weird Weeds' powerful grasp on both economy and subtlety, managing to say everything they need to in less than a minute and some change, allowing everything the song says to be delivered with the utmost regard for the effect all the individual sounds have on one other.

While many similar acts might try to draw out their ideas until they're stretched within an inch of their life, The Weird Weeds understand the importance of emphasizing individual ideas. Although I'm probably not at liberty to explain the song's subject matter (full disclosure: drummer Nick Hennies told me what it was about a ways back), it doesn't really matter; the poignancy of the music coupled with the almost nostalgic feel to the lyrics and vocals will surely give listeners enough fodder to come up with their own story.

1. Bad Dreams
2. Weird Feelings
3. Nose to the Wind
4. In Your Arms
5. Tupper
6. Broken Arm
7. You Win!
8. For You to See Me
9. Alley
10. Salt Shaker
11. One-Eyed Cloud
12. Cold Medicine

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