The change comes at the right time. The band's original EPs under Now, Now Every Children showed potential (without Abbott), but sometimes felt like they were performing with training wheels. By the time they released Cars on a friend's Afternoon Records label, they were better for it with several solid tracks.
And then they moved on to the Neighbors EP (Jesus Camp is especially sharp), which sounded miles apart from where they started. Now, with the addition of Abbott and No Sleep Records, they were drifting toward a sound — one that Trans-Records would help them capture with Threads.
Threads sounds like the debut Now, Now ought to have had.
As an album, Threads has plenty going for it. The trio had more time to write together. They weren't in a rush to be discovered as Chris Walla (Death Cab For Cutie) had become a supporter. And they had a little help from Howard Redekopp (Tegan And Sara, New Pornographers), who was instrumental in restricting their sound without losing what they wanted to hit.
What they hit in less than two minutes was Dead Oaks, a song that feels right in its economy and simplicity. I originally flagged it as something to watch when it was released as a single, hoping the forthcoming album would hold up as well as this first track.
The reason so much attention is being showered on Dead Oaks is because of its consistent build after the immediate capture of minimalism that Dalager brings to the plate. It's full of deep yearning.
It's great, but not the best song on Threads. School Friends is a mellow, envious brooder that acts as a nice counterbalance to Dead Oaks, even if they are positioned inches apart from each other on the album. In fact, it's much better than the catchiness and angelic chorus tucked inside Wolf.
What's appealing on the tracks throughout, much like Jesus Camp from Neighbors, is that Dalager sounds stronger in contemplation than naivety. Lucie, Too proves the point, with deep chords and full instrumentals to offset Dalager's always crisp and crystal vocals, especially with its haunting lyrics.
"What people will specifically notice about the songs on Threads is the way that they are put together," says Hale, "We spent a lot of time going through the basic song ideas and restructuring them to make them their best."
They lyrics underscore what the band wanted to put on the album.
They also wanted to explore the fragile and transitory nature of our existence, especially with relationships. And they wanted to break away from the childish image that some people (mostly themselves) thought they had. But they don't have that so much anymore.
“This band feels like an extension of us as people,” explains Dalager. “It’s something we’ve been nurturing for a long time and it is all we really care about ... something we’ve worked really hard for and need to make happen no matter what.”
It's almost hard to believe at times, at least for Dalager and Hale, that they started playing together in high school, usually after band practice. Dalager didn't really know what she wanted to do before she started with the band. Now it's hard to imagine any of them wanting to do anything else, even in a hotel room.
The track Oh. Hi. has even more substance on the album. And when you listen to it, along with some of the other tracks, it becomes especially clear that this band has had a remarkable progression over the past five years. There is also plenty more progress for them to make in the years ahead too, which is probably what Walla heard last year when he first met them at SXSW.
Threads By Now, Now Shreds 8.8 On The Liquid Hip Richter Scale.
The album isn't perfect, but there is plenty of material for different people to discover. A few reviewers have said that it might be too consistent for its own good. But I can't count myself among them. Right now it seems they have hit the middle ground, delivering a dark pop sound.
You can find Threads by Now, Now on iTunes. The album is available on Amazon and the CD is available at Barnes & Noble. The band is currently touring on the East Coast and will work their way west via the Midwest before landing in San Francisco on April 21. Visit their Facebook page for more tour dates after that.