June 1, 2011 08:26

taking a listen

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reviews of the moment

FRIEND HOUSE — Keepin’ It Cute and Lonely

There’s a strong undercurrent of lyrical melancholy that flows through the debut EP by agro-folk trio Friend House, but frontman Mat Masterson’s quiet mania is counterbalanced by tenacious instrumentalism and a constantly shifting musical aesthetic.

Keepin’ It Cute and Lonely recalls Masterson’s stint with altcountry collective Israel Darling in that it pairs dense philosophical conundrums with even denser sound, but here Masterson achieves it with just guitar, bass and drums. Tying up loose ends seems to be the predominant theme, and in opener “Later Alloquator” he ponders the dilemma of stay vs. go through the lens of a blue-collar dope, then in “Honest & Happy” he’s coming to terms with a dead-end relationship. His vehicle can at times be esoteric (“Those trees kept me calm out on rough seas/ but helped me find my way back to shore”), but the delivery is always earnest. Masterson trades hooks for implication, though there are clever lines to be mined. “Put your pamphlets away sir/ I’m already saved,” he sings on “Drunk Town,” a song reverent to both Israel Darling’s “Dinosaur Bones and

Mechanical Hands” and Nick Cave’s “Let Love In.” The countrified album-ender “Dirty Opus (Pt. 1)” is a bit of an enigma in and of itself, referencing interfamily issues couched in a narrative on a master-slave complex. “Every word we speak is wrapped up in code,” Masterson says, but Keepin’ It Cute and Lonely ultimately leaves more answers than the album asks questions.

74/100

Friend House will perform at CFBG on Sunday with Really Old Airplanes, Hot Ropes and Taylor Bays.

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