Let us stop right away and appreciate the introduction to “Lawless,” which fades in on the distinctive but difficult to identify sound of water being churned or pumped, on top of which soon arrives an unhurried, elastic electric guitar. It’s 20 seconds of sound that is both intriguing and engaging. (A lot of music made in the 21st century, across all genres, from pop to classical, nails the “intriguing” side without bothering with the “engaging” part.) The guitar offers up an actual melody, and the lazy ambiance carries with it a clear sense of impending change and movement. Lots of introductions traffic in pretty much the same tempo and dynamic range of the song to come; something like this merely lets us know we are heading into an adventure.
So the singing starts and we’re still in the same instrumental place, but notice now how the verse melody proceeds in double time, and ends with that quirky repetition that kind of comes out of nowhere but sticks in your head (“time for bed, time for bed, time for bed”). The lyrics, meanwhile, have just alluded to the baby game of “This little piggy,” and are heading who knows where. Drum kicks in. The song both develops and yet seems to stay in a state of unresolved ambiguity. No chorus emerges, just the verse three times over. And by the third time things have somehow gotten pretty intense, thanks in part to the re-emergence of the introduction’s guitar line, soon sounding less dreamy and more vehement; a really effective use of backing vocals also adds to the potency. More than halfway into it, we are still not sure where it’s heading: one moment we are led into an a capella oasis (1:29), the next into an extended guitar frenzy (1:42). The song has a minute to go but we’ll hear no more words, as it eventually finishes off with an instrumental recapitulation of the primary theme. Somehow this multi-faceted, unrushed drama has come and gone in two minutes and forty seconds.
Coast Jumper is four high-school friends from New York, now living in San Francisco (coast jumper, see?), with a fifth guy now in the band. “Lawless” is from Grand Opening, the band’s aptly-titled debut. The 10-song self-released album is available in “name your price” mode at Bandcamp, and will be physically released in May.