Monday, January 18, 2010

Out On Town - Cousins

Out On Town

Youth Club Records.

SCQ Rating: 74%

You know a really solid album when you can take it on a lonesome night-walk as readily as to a house party. That ideal mix of upbeat pulse and woe-is-me lamenting that renders a record versatile enough for whatever joys and strife gets thrown your way on a daily basis. Well, the one-two punch that opens Out On Town, the debut release by Halifax’s own Cousins, supplies just that balance; where ‘Anxious’ delivers a staccato-spiked electric jam that is ironed-out significantly by vocalist Aaron Mangle, ‘Around Their Waists’ winds down a casual bass-strut before the percussion peppers out some semi-latent urgency. With these songs, I could be kicking snow on my way to work and getting psyched for the weekend all at once.

Through no fault or inclination of their own, Cousins – who released Out On Town around the same time as Real Estate's self-titled – often resemble the Pitchfork-darlings in their lackadaisical but nonetheless touching arrangements. What distinguishes this four-piece from that reasonable praise rests in their occasionally explosive habits; as pensive and ambling as ‘Formulas’ starts out, its percussive weight gets progressively heavier while title track ‘Out On Town’ builds from a steady riff to mushroom outward in perhaps the record’s best climax, let alone song. Even in the band’s less transcendent moments, like the back-to-back middling of ‘Memory’ and ‘Three Years Old’, Cousins share some of Real Estate’s roadblocks, unable to point a worthwhile trajectory from plodding and scant three-minute tunes. The vocal hooks are still there, the band’s core dynamics remain in place, but in these rare cases I can’t help but feel these tracks may have shone brighter had they gestated longer in the songwriting process. Hell, the confidence displayed throughout this album certainly suggests a band capable of taking more risks.

As the album goes on, Mangle’s timbre grows increasingly apt comparisons to Neil Young, as if Cousins is carrying on the Canadian icon’s penchant for folk-rock… only with a band that knows how to measure delicacy with power (sorry, Crazyhorse). Out On Town is an impressive debut, binding another chapter in rock’s timeless craft while securing themselves firmly amid Halifax’s renowned indie-scene.

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