June 8, 2015

Review: O-Face | Mint

There can be an auspicious power inherent in bands comprised of longtime friends (not to mention siblings, although there are the obvious, constantly warring exceptions). When two or more band members have known each other for years, the energies from that bond can trickle through the sound in singular ways. Which certainly seems to be the case with Annandale-On-Hudson, New York’s O-FACE, an act whose guitarist/vocalists Seth Sobottka and Preston Ossman grew up together in Washington before heading to Bard College and expanding their extant bedroom pop project into a full-on rock band. The pair became a quintet, and its new five-song EP Mint is so chock full of ideas, personality and idiosyncratic humor that it really is deserving of its own stylistic descriptor; the group humbly offer the not-quite-big-enough-sounding "G-folk." Presenting with a live, house-show feel, thoughtful guitar histrionics of the sort propounded by erstwhile Philadelphia greats Algernon Cadwallader (notably, Algernon's Joe Reinhart produces this short set), quirky lo-fi synth flourishes, unapologetic and unabashed pop harmonies and rave-ups, O-FACE manage to cram an album's worth of ideas into this short, sweet set.

Opener and highlight "740 Turbo" is bookended with delicate and mesmerizing guitar passages; at the fore are urgent vocals asserting that the singer's car is "a luxury station wagon," inciting listeners to "take the wheel!" The desperate, dual vocals -- which play against the somewhat comical lines of the chorus -- bring into focus the humor and unique logic of O-FACE (the tune, incidentally, is sonically quite similar to the work of Portland, Maine greats Endless Jags -- Ed.), and drives the tune to a electrifying crescendo and hard stop. Despite their tongue-in-cheek nature, the ruminations on the adventurous potential of a Volvo scan as critically important in the context of the youthful moment being memorialized. "When You Assume..." flips the script, beginning as a breezy, straightforward waltz set against quick, dramatic synth-string breakdowns and "doot doot" backing vocals -- it's reminiscent of the too-often-overlooked The Ocean Blue, and with different production it could have been released on Sire in 1988. The bright, wiry guitars of lead single "Yolanda" makes perhaps the strongest case for the band's Algernon fandom -- the song effectively cycles between busy, post-hardcore hammer-ons and a palm-muted, Police-style verse and touts a flowing, nearly tropical melody. A sturdy, shouted outro and lovely guitar architecture (guitarchitecture?) in the bridge recall the opening of "740 Turbo." Closer "Torres" surprises by dropping vocals entirely and instead pursuing a neat, tidy post-rock instrumental. Here props must be given to secret-weapon Dash Flach (what a name!) on synth, who manages to create standout chording and figures that never have to fight for space with the dual guitars.

Mint is being released just as the band is graduating from Bard (the name references the color of their university squat and practice space). But more importantly it evinces a dynamic friend unit with a hyperactive wealth of ideas in which to explore and inhabit moving forward. Like the most academically prepared adults, the five never lose focus or themselves during this experimentation, and that's what makes the EP such a promising and exciting collection. Mint was issued last week as co-release of Father/Daughter Records and Miscreant Records, and it can be procured via either enterprises' Bandcamp on cassette or as a digital download here or here. O-FACE previously released an LP, Taste, in September 2014, and another EP, Shrug Life, in late 2012. Both of those older sets are available via O-FACE's Bandcamp right here. O-FACE head out on a long summer tour Saturday with labelmates Pupppy, and all of the dates are posted below the embed. The band plays O'Brien's in Allston Rock City July 24, and that will surely be a hot rock and roll show. -- Edward Charlton

O-Face: Bandcamp | Facebook

06.13 -- Brooklyn, NY -- Palisades (Miscreant Records Northside Showcase)
06.14 -- Philadelphia, PA -- TBA
06.15 -- Washington, DC -- Above The Bayou
06.16 -- Richmond, VA -- Gallery 5
06.17 -- Columbia, SC -- Foxfield Bar and Grille
06.18 -- Atlanta, GA -- The Mammal Gallery
06.20 -- Nashville, TN -- Exponent Manor
06.21 -- Birmingham, AL -- The Hive
06.22 -- New Orleans, LA -- House Show
06.23 -- Houston, TX -- TBA
06.24 -- Austin, TX -- Beerland
06.25 -- Austin, TX -- Trailer Space
06.28 -- Phoenix, AZ -- The Trunk Space
06.29 -- San Diego, CA -- Soda Bar
07.01 -- San Francisco, CA -- The Knockout
07.03 -- Portland, OR -- Analog Cafe & Theater
07.04 -- Seattle, WA -- Werewolf Vacation
07.05 -- Bellingham, WA -- MAKE.SHIFT
07.06 -- Whidbey Island, WA -- Whidbey Children's Theater
07.08 -- Olympia, WA -- Deadbeat Olympia
07.09 -- Spokane, WA -- Checkerboard Bar
07.10 -- Missoula, MT -- The Real Lounge
07.11 -- Salt Lake City, UT -- Dawg Pound Tavern
07.12 -- Denver, CO -- TBA
07.13 -- Omaha, NE -- Lookout Lounge
07.14 -- Des Moines, IA -- Des Moines Social Club
07.15 -- Minneapolis, MN -- Kitty Kat Club
07.17 -- Chicago, IL -- TBA
07.18 -- Lansing, MI -- The Avenue/The Green House
07.19 -- Athens, OH -- The Creampuff
07.20 -- Oberlin, OH -- Seed House
07.21 -- Pittsburgh, PA -- Bates Hardcore Gym
07.22 -- Philadelphia, PA -- TBA
07.23 -- West Haven, CT -- Crunch House
07.24 -- Boston, MA -- O'Brien's Pub
07.26 -- Brooklyn, NY -- Silent Barn

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