Let’s get something clear here, right off the bat: Lawn’s Big Sprout is three songs – an EP, maybe even technically a demo. But it’s three songs that I’ve had to fight to not burn myself out on since I first heard them in early December.
2016 was, at least from an outsider’s perspective, a year of tremendous accomplishment for New Orleans musician Ruy De Magalhaes. De Magalhaes contributed to four different projects this year, ranging everywhere from shimmering post-punk to goofball hardcore, though the true gems of the bunch are the two stunning releases from the tail end of the year: Spread the Husk, the final full-length album by Yuppie Teeth; and the subject of this write-up, Big Sprout. While Yuppie Teeth was a project direct from the inner machinations of De Magalhaes – he was the four-piece band’s lead vocalist, songwriter, and primary composer – Lawn is, upon first listen, a very different project. Spread the Husk, like so much of the music pouring out of New Orleans’ blossoming community, relies heavily on the noise-pop dynamics made popular by 90s mainstays such as Pavement and Yo La Tengo. It’s catchy and pop-oriented, and yet totally sideways; De Magalhaes’s vocals are emotive, and yet buried, withdrawn. This signature “90s sound” has come full-circle in recent years, and NoLa’s collective take on it is as vibrant and engaging as any. (If you haven’t caught wind of De Magalhaes’ peers in Donovan Wolfington and Pope, well A) I don’t believe you, and B) we use hyperlinks). I mention all this because Lawn sounds, in fact, very little like Yuppie Teeth, or D-Wolf, or Pope. With these bands being as close as they are to one another, both in sonic elements and personnel (D-Wolf and Pope share members, some of whom even appear on the highly collaborative Spreading the Husk), I admittedly expected something a bit fuzzier and riffier and heavier from Big Sprout. Call it a preconceived notion, or maybe an unlucky guess. Instead, I was surprised. Most of the couple dozen songs De Magalhaes helped pen last year feel at least partially indebted to a certain quintessential sound; Lawn’s debut, on the other hand, sounds indebted to a diversity of influences and an unassuming creative process.
Between the languid jangle-pop bookend tracks “Sweet” and “Familiar”, and the rhythmically-taut guitarwork of the brooding, Parquet Courts-esque “Prefect”, the contrast at play on this release is an invigorating first step forward. If I played you “Sweet” and “Prefect” back-to-back as they appear on the EP, you might swear I put on a different band altogether, and that alone is a huge part of why Big Sprout’s replay value really can’t be overstated. Lawn simply seem to know how to write any kind of song they want to.
These three songs are clearly the result of a fairly egalitarian songwriting process – everyone shares vocal duties, resulting in some “Sweet” harmonies, and drummer Nick Corson even throws in a slide-guitar solo of his own on the bouncy “Familiar.” Between the vocal and lyrical talents of De Magalhaes, Corson and guitarist/vocalist Mac Folger, it’s more than apparent that Lawn is a band whose individual technical abilities are matched evenly by their collective ear for pop-ingenuity.
If you’re anything like me, you’ll listen to Big Sprout and shake your head at the nonchalant brilliance of its verses (It’s a street thing, pretend that it’s all figured out/ Just to keep all the secret special interests out/ Hold onto your surrogate connection now/Into short direction on the sequel ‘round). Compelled to start the album over, you’ll scoff at the idea that three people could make, seemingly on a lark, the most fun ten-minutes of music you’ve heard all year. If you’re anything like me, you’ll listen to Big Sprout, realize it’s pay-what-you-want on bandcamp, and throw that shit on your Zune as fast as humanly possible.
Article by James Sweeney