Three years removed from the modest success of a single home-recorded, self-titled EP, Carrboro, North Carolina’s Some Army return this spring with their long-delayed but somehow timely debut album, ONE STONE AND TOO MANY BIRDS. As Americans squabble increasingly over, well, everything, the album is the sound of a band barring the door to all of the noise, only to hear it bleeding through the walls. ONE STONE is a brooding, ambitious record, concerned with heady stuff: idealism giving way to cynicism, hope ceding to nihilism. It's a personal and subtly political statement - at times, esoteric - and it shows Some Army shedding the casual haze of their earlier release in search of a tighter, more precise aesthetic.
That transition proved challenging. Recording began in 2013 at Fidelitorium Recordings in Kernersville, but the original timeline for the album's release quickly passed. Some members - Brad Porter, Patrick O'Neill, Elysse Thebner Miller, and Joe Caparo − started new projects or took up with other groups (The Wyrms, Wild Fur, Lacy Jags, Jenks Miller, and Schooner, among others). Work had essentially stalled when songwriter Russell Baggett ditched the initial plan of finishing the record in proper studios in favor of a more comfortable DIY approach. Some songs were scrapped and new ones replaced them. Debts were incurred and new gear was purchased as tracking moved into a series of empty houses and the local ArtsCenter's small theater. The final line was sung among the din and literal noise bleed of industrial commerce and teens taking music lessons in a multi-use storage facility at the edge of downtown Raleigh. Twenty-two months were gone down the rabbit hole.
But the resulting pastiche of hi- and lo-fi turned out to be what Some Army were looking for in the first place: the soft distortion of a vintage tape echo against the hiss of a pawnshop 4-track; the warmth of a Hammond organ through a Leslie cabinet versus the miked speaker of a toy Casio keyboard; or the harsh blips of a cheap drum machine layered under the massive percussive space of a world-class live room. These contradictions helped further articulate the tension at play in the songs' lyrics. The group brought in Scott Solter (Superchunk, Mountain Goats, John Vanderslice, St. Vincent, Spoon) to mix the competing sounds into something cohesive, and suddenly, finally, ONE STONE AND TOO MANY BIRDS was a real thing.
A short-run cassette release for album opener "Fever" and several unused demos coincided with the band's unlikely performance alongside Battles and Mac McCaughan at the Hopscotch Music Festival last September. Baggett left North Carolina for Alabama around that time − a move that, while presenting some obvious obstacles, has at last afforded him the stability of a dedicated recording space and the time to make use of it. And with tour dates in the works for the coming months and new explorations on the horizon, one album may be finished, but Some Army is clearly not.
ONE STONE AND TOO MANY BIRDS is out April 8th via Potluck.