From the primordial jangle of Big Star to younger bucks like Real Estate, indie rockers have long aimed to create songs that sound delightfully weightless without feeling undercooked. To pull off this particular strain of mid-fi pop-rock one has to have a knack for both soufflé-light arrangements and memorable melodies. It’s a surprisingly difficult balance to achieve for music that’s meant to sound effortless. Boston gentle rockers Heavy Knits know how to keep things light…and by that I mean they know what they’re doing…and by “they” I mean one dude, Adam Taylor Young (of ABADABAD).
The first album from Heavy Knits, Keeping in Touch, kicks off with one of its strongest offerings, ‘Battle Scars.’ The tune’s got a melodic lope to it, with guitars set to just right shimmery. From song one I had a suspicion that Heavy Knits was the work of one person (I don’t check liners before a first listen) because of the spare, unobtrusive nature of the instrumentation (especially the drums, man, there’s not a drop of drummer ego here). This charming, go-it-alone approach doesn’t hinder ‘Battle Scars,’ which has perfectly set up a chorus that I found myself still humming after the fade out.
Like many of their soft rocking contemporaries, Heavy Knits has a soft spot for late 60’s psychedelia. The album’s second track, ‘Helping Hands,’ attempts to jump the short gap between Beggars Banquet and Their Satanic Majesties Request by melding ramshackle acoustic blues and sitar-led freak folk. It sounds a lot like those other Stones worshipers, The Brian Jonestown Massacre. That’s no dig, as Keeping in Touch’s darker, trippier cuts create a welcome variety even if they aren’t as fully realized as their poppier counterparts.
Up next is one of those aforementioned pop confections, ‘Earn It.’ The hook-laden song stays buoyed by acoustic guitar and light brass before sinking into the answering machine message collage, ‘Keeping in Touch.’ This interlude along with next track, ‘Halfway There,’ underscores the album’s central concerns about how difficult it is to maintain connections, and to form new ones when old ones fray painfully. “You wanna fall in love,” warbles Adam, “but your heart is only halfway there.”
Keeping In Touch’s only minor misstep is ‘The Death of the American Boy.’ It’s the one song here that cries out for a tighter rhythm section to pull it along. Without a solid groove, it meanders before falling off into closer, ‘Toug Duttle,’ which sounds like one of the instrumentals on The Soft Bulletin recorded on 1/1000th of the budget.
Keeping in Touch is a modest but promising start for Heavy Knits. It made me want to roll my windows down even though I listened to it in a basement. I’m interested to hear what Adam does next, especially if he finds some fellow travelers to flesh out his sound.
Listen to Keeping in Touch below: