Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Now, Now

"Find a thread to pull, and we can watch it unravel."  So sings Cacie Dalager on "Thread" – the hit single off her band Now, Now’s highly-touted, almost-eponymous sophomore release, Threads. If an album could be represented by just one of its tiny, unassuming sentences, I get the feeling this would be it. Traced throughout each of the album’s carefully executed tracks, the masochistic, messy roots of what it means to unravel are plainly documented here, and they are here from the first ten seconds.

Since the album’s debut last March, the Minneapolis-based trio has earned serious praise. Dalager and her two band mates, Brad Hale (drums) and Jess Abbot (guitar) had already spent time on the road with Paramore and opened for Mates of State when they made their first television appearance on Fallon last November, and before long they were everywhere. The Current. SPIN. The back of your mind. And for good reason. Threads is an album replete with youthful yearning but lacking the saccharine, Swift-esque naiveté that seems to run rampant these days. Don’t bother Dalager with "we-are-never-ever-getting-back- togethers," she’s too busy layering complex metaphors over hazy guitars and nostalgic, grunge-era hooks. “It may be different now,” Dalager proclaims on "Prehistoric," "but the pattern won’t wash out."

The trio has achieved on Threads what any great band aims to do: make the construction of their carefully created themes and symbols appear seamless. If Now, Now reminds you of some of the better punk-rock groups from your youth on a small dose of Xanax it's no mistake: the album packs a heavy punch under dreamy, veiled nonchalance. The slight yearning brewing in Dalager's voice isn't anger or bitterness; it's not even depression. It doesn't need to be the loudest or the angriest; the frenetic sounds behind her carry enough rock credential. Instead, her voice remains calm and honest and delivers an appropriate amount of that divisive old device: angst. Which, by the way, does not need to be thrown out the window as you enter adulthood, but rather refined so your bad-assery is delivered in more unique and purposeful ways. Your angst has to have meaning. It has to tell a story. It has to help someone or convey some universal truth. And that is exactly what Threads does.

Beyond the easy Tegan and Sara comparisons, this album lays claim to a unique soundone that conjures up nothing but its own magic. Dalager & Co. weave themes of patterns formed, threads pulled, and relationships come undone throughout the album, and they do it without being predictable, trite, or (hipster gasp!) trying too hard. In fact, for someone so young, Dalager dishes out the cold, hard truth in deliciously wise bites a la Leslie Feist or Chan Marshall. The album stings in a beautiful way that’s only as sad as it is honest. “I am what you need when you can’t find it somewhere else,” she sings on "But I Do." "I am what you want when you don’t want anything else." Rather than cry over spilt milk, Dalager contemplates the fact that shit spills at all, turning her almost-youthful-angst into more acute, mature awareness. Afterall, everyone unravels from time to time. Only rarely do we have the chance to get to know our own unraveling so well through an album as intimate as Threads.