Friday, August 17, 2012

The Babies Cry Up Some Psych Pop

Moonlight Mile, the new 7-inch from The Babies, cries up some vintage noise pop as a follow-up to their 12-inch EP Cry Along With The Babies released in January. It will appease anyone who was somewhat disappointed with that effort.

While the track is still pretty far removed from the sound laid down during the band's Brooklyn beginnings in 2009, Moonlight Mile is a big swing in the right direction. As the first glimmer to another album this fall, both the single and the B-side make Our House On The Hill all the more promising.

Moonlight Mile marks a shift in the sound.

The song itself is about getting lost somewhere in the middle of nowhere, and then it's played up as a haunting piece of psych pop. It has an upbeat and fuzzy tempo, without ever becoming too friendly. Its lyrics carry a ghostly warning: It may have been the right road for "him," but not for you.

As a garage rock/pop number, Moonlight Mile also takes advantage of Kevin Morby's (Woods) ability to deliver increasingly infectious harmonies while allowing Cassie Ramone (Vivian Girls) to feel at home on lead guitar. They in turn are rounded out by original member and drummer Justin Sullivan (Bossy) and bassist Brian Schleyer (Big Soda) with a much more settled sound.

The track has little if anything to do with the Rolling Stones' song with the same name, except the possible connection to vintage drug slang. That, and there are influences from the 60s.

The B-side is a bit different in tone. Places maintains the psych pop sound, but makes a completely different statement. Instead of warding someone away, the indie pop rock track invites people step outside, meet people, see places, and set themselves free.

It's somewhat reminiscent of how Morby and Ramone originally came together as two friends just looking to jam together. The pairing turned out better than they expected, giving Ramone more freedom as lead guitarist and Morby an opportunity to sing while switching out his bass for guitar.

The Babies have evolved from a side project into a standalone.

Originally, Romane said she didn't see this outing as anything other than a short-term side project. But it is very different now. The Babies have discovered a unique enough sound (from either Vivian Girls or Woods) to take ownership. They've even doubled up with their respective bands on occasion. In July, they shared stage time with both Vivian Girls and La Sera (Katy Goodman's side project).

There may be opportunities to do that with Woods too. Morby's other band, fronted by Jeremy Earl, has an album release slated for September by Woodsist, making them label mates (at least for the short term). The sound is different, but complements. It's part of what makes The Babies work without being extensions.

"In Vivian Girls, I write most of the songs," Ramone said in 2009. "It's good for Kevin because he's like the main guy, and it's good for me because I can take a more backseat approach and just kind of help out."

It's also how things are done among the circle of friends that make up much of the indie scene in New York. When bands aren't playing, some of them end up at the same punk shows. All four of the band members met this way before they sat down to play together.

Moonlight Mile By The Babies Lines Up At 5.2 On The Liquid Hip Richter Scale. 

Incidentally, The Babies also put out a single with a different label in April. It was somewhat overlooked, carrying a rawness that was more closely related to their Cry Along With The Babies EP. Moonlight Mile isn't easily passed up. It's an indication that what started as a loosely arranged duo is feeling like a foursome to watch.

You can find Moonlight Mile by The Babies on iTunes. You can also download Moonlight Mile from Amazon. The single is available from Woodsist direct, with only 1,000 copies that feature the exclusive B-side, Places.

Fans of Ramone might note we also covered her duet with Owen Holmes on Gospel Music. And for those who don't know her, she has another creative outlet as an artist. She has designed several dozen album covers for indie bands; two Widowspeak members sport her drawings as tattoos.
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