Music — January 25, 2016 11:08 — 0 Comments

The Spider Fern’s ‘Safety’ and Garbeau’s ‘Little Laugher’

The early part of 2016 brings new EPs from two Seattle-area bands worth checking out: the Spider Ferns and Garbeau. Last year, the Spider Ferns released their well-received debut LP, Soon Enough, a slinky, sometimes icy collection of electronic pop meditations. Their new EP, Safety, is very much in the same vein, with songs built around downtempo beats propping up effects-laden electric guitar and Kelly Fleek’s prominent vocals. “Stronger Still” opens with an iconic 80’s brass synth pad, a drum loop and intermittent laser-sounding synth bursts before Fleek’s dramatic vocals slowly enter the scene. The song stalks around for over six minutes, passing through percussive breakdowns, a Kate Bush-like chorus and gobs of guitar played through a phase pedal without fundamentally changing gears or building to any real crescendo. “Safety” and “Words Will Fail” have similar arcs, creeping tendrils of sounds spread rather than gallop, acting more like set pieces than traditional songs. “In the Silence” is more dynamic, with sharp contrast between the quieter, brooding sections and more agitated builds. Even so, it’s difficult to feel out a firm chorus, verse or bridge in the song, the edges of each section are smoothed over by atmosphere. Closer “In Violet Bloom” is the most stylistically diverse song on the EP, mainly because it revolves around a big, meaty drum beat that dominates the track but Fleek’s slinky vocals and a host of vintage digital synth sounds still play a part. There’s a kind of Casio noir feel to the Spider Ferns, a deliberately dark vibe quietly seething with obviously artificial, yet familiar, tones.

Garbeau are indie rock classicists of the highest order. Little Laugher, their debut EP, sounds like the communal dream of my CD collection in the mid to late 90s. There are hints of Pavement at their most wistful and Guided by Voices at their most straight-forward, as well as lesser-known bands like San Diego’s Boilermaker and the Bay Area’s mighty Contrail. Opener “We’ll Burn Clean” is a moody, mid-tempo anthem about that most durable of topics, a romantic falling out. The bridge kicks off with a hearty stomp on a distortion pedal before the lyrics take a suitably disaffected turn with “so here’s to nothing / here’s to nothing at all”. “Total Bust” has an almost country feel to it, like a southern rock tune tumbling down the stairs while yelling. The first half of the song does the whole alternating quiet verse / loud chorus Pixies thing quite nicely before going off on a dreamy, Built to Spill-ish side journey that ends with a soaring guitar solo. The chorus on “Choked Bored” is a flat-out fantastic ear worm, while the title track wraps things up nicely with groovy, syncopated bass and drums interplay and more lyrics about heartbreak and bitterness.


The Spider Ferns have their EP release show at Chop Suey on Thursday, January 28th. Garbeau have their EP release show at Barboza on Monday, February 1st.


Jon Rooney is a Seattle-based musician and writer. See more at

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