Album Review / Legs Like Tree Trunks – Future Reference EP

Words by Ricky

Let’s start by declaring Legs Like Tree Trunks one of the best bands in Pittsburgh. Yeah I said it. They haven’t existed long. If memory serves me right (which it sometimes doesn’t), all four members have played together for two years or so. Still they’ve gained a solid following thanks to touring and playing a shit-ton of shows. Their first EP saw the light of day last year—it was quite good. Equally impressive is their 2nd EP, which recently made its way to the webz.

Chances are you’ll dig Future Reference—it holds that rare ability to appeal to both the weird guitar nerd/metal dude from work AND your mom. Actually the only potentially negative criticism I’ve heard of LLTT was from a few friends who complained there was too much guitar-tapping going on during songs. That’s like saying “I don’t like that punk band because they use too many power chords.” (Full disclosure: my friends still enjoyed the band’s set.) Yeah, notes tap in and out, but no one’s ever showing off, and each rhythm intricately communicates with the next round of notes…and it fucking rules. Their style recalls the warbling guitar/bass interplay of Up on the Sun-era Meat Puppets or Faraquet’s math-rock-with-substance aggression. Unlike Faraquet, though, LLTT’s guitars glide through the air instead of hammer your head. The restrained angst of singer Matt Holden also reminds me of Castor, Boy’s Life, along with newer groups like Algernon Cadwallader.

The lyrics throughout Future Reference are, in fact, simplistic, and they focus on singular subjects: a city, a car, a season, etc. It’s cool, because the simplicity (even if the subjects act as metaphors for larger ideas) juxtaposes with the interlocking musical niceties that sometimes take a few listens to nail down. Nothing’s ever too straightforward—take for instance the opening track, “Snowflake.” First of all, a song called “Snowflake” that’s not cheesy…well done! But more importantly, the song’s peppered with shifting time signatures, guitar flourishes (thanks to Matt and Dave Cerminara), and clear-cut yet unique bass runs from Dave Shepherd. The pleasant atmospheric studio trickery near the end adds extra ummph that sometimes disappears when a swell live band cuts studio tracks. It’s a great song that’s easy to dig yet still a bit challenging.

Second track “Anchorage” proves that lead singer Matt Holden was born a decade or two too late. His friendly voice is made for late 90’s alternative radio—think Duncan Sheik or Shawn Mullins (OK, if you’re looking for a “cool band” to compare his pipes to, let’s say Yo La Tengo and move on with our lives).

The EP’s strongest track is definitely “WADM.” Rhythms fly and notes battle through three minutes of near-chaos. Even with a pace faster than that Felix dude dropping from space, everything remains grounded by Matt’s calming voice—until the 1:45 mark, when half the band cuts out—leaving only some twinkling guitars. For a split second you foolishly think, “ohhhh how pretty,” but then, BAAM, the drums and screams crash the twinkle-party with the EP’s zenith moment—and the song ends with a more face-melting version of the opening riff. You’re exhausted by the song’s end. You feel like you just finished some intense sex—like the kind that leaves you dizzy and dazed after.

Thus, the EP must end gently, and it does, with the album’s most-mature moment in the song “Parked Cars.” The hesitant vibe that starts the song ends with a climax that carries similar ideas of, say, an Explosion in the Sky song or something you’d hear soundtracking a game on Friday Night Lights. Even though the song ends with unanswered questions (“It hides out in backseats of parked cars in dark alleyways. What is it? What could it be?”), one feels like the band ends things on a positive, definite note.

The band treats the recording process carefully—they need to—a “lo-fi” version of these songs wouldn’t work. The folks at Milkboy the Studio provide a crisp and clear sound mindful of details. My only complaint is that this isn’t long enough—I want a full album, dammit!

Very rarely do the abilities of all band members gel perfectly. Very rarely do members’ technical strengths (and limitations) fit together like jigsaw puzzle pieces—those bands are extra special. I’ll avoid sappy congratulations and end with a message to the band: guys, don’t fuck this up…keep doing what you’re doing. This is excellent.

Legs Like Tree Trunks on the web: Bandcamp / Facebook

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