Already the silvery vibe and agile beat bring to mind a Fleet Foxes song, and then Edward Sturtevant opens his mouth and Robin Pecknold all but tumbles out. But you know what? Doesn’t matter. A band sounding like another band is no sin. First of all, removing ourselves from the bubble of musical over-exposure, a lot of the time, what seems an obvious resemblance to us may not register on other ears. Second, and more important, the only thing that need offend the ears, as far as I’m concerned, is a bad song; good songs, on the contrary, are entirely welcome in whatever guise they choose to arrive. “Minnow” is a wonderful song.
At the root of it is one of those juxtapositions that pop songs can, when they want to, manage so well. The often-discussed pop-song juxtaposition is happy music with sad lyrics, but there are other, subtler ways to juxtapose countervailing moods. In “Minnow” we get a brisk 4/4 beat paired with a mild, bittersweet demeanor—a gentle-but-fast amalgam that creates a distinctive sense of urgency, an urgency that gives itself up to you rather than pushes itself onto you, if that makes sense. And within the consistent, fast-moving framework, the song offers us two differentiated approaches to the beat: the expansive verse, with a swaying feel fostered by an accentuated third beat; and the seemingly faster-moving (but not) chorus, with its double-time rhythm section. Through it all, Sturtevant is almost disconcertingly affecting; he sings with an ache but entirely without the histrionics that generally plague 21st-century American vocalists whenever they try to emote (thank you, yet again, “American Idol”). He is assisted by an able-bodied melody that is at once assertive and evasive, with lines that begin emphatically but end, often, by veering away from resolution.
Time Travelers formed while the foursome were sophomores at Bates College in 2008. They moved (where else?) to Brooklyn, last year. “Minnow” is a song from Vacationland, the band’s second EP, which was released at the beginning of this year but only recently brought to my attention. You can listen to it and/or buy it (for a price of your choosing) via Bandcamp. Thanks to the band for the MP3.
photo credit: Liz Rowley