MusicThe Summerbird in the room
Is Listening EP
With apologies to the other three members of the Tenant, the first order of business here is: How does it compare to Summerbirds in the Cellar? The Tenant’s guitarist-vocalist Brad Register made a name for himself fronting that Orlando band, and although he is making a concerted effort to give the Tenant a more communal vibe, the fact remains that Register’s whispery voice and atmospheric guitar work are immediately recognizable on the new band’s debut recordings.
Beyond those immediate signifiers, however, the sound of the Tenant is remarkably different. While Register’s general approach – spinning a deceptively complex web of psychedelic dreampop while expending as little energy as possible – remains intact, the influence of the other 75 percent of the band ensures that these eight tracks are far sturdier and more rockist than anything Summerbirds attempted.
It’s difficult to compare something positively to its predecessor without belittling previous accomplishments, but with the Tenant, everything that was great about Summerbirds – the combination of Eno-esque atmospherics with indie-rock melodicism – is retained, while Summerbirds’ less-than-excellent traits – for instance, a tendency to write themselves into a stylistic cul-de-sac – are replaced by a sense of inspired, rock-powered adventurousness.
On tracks like “Trouble” and “Visitors,” the Tenant is in full-on exploration mode, and several of these songs have a just-out-of-the-practice-space energy that’s notably light on mannered beauty. For instance, the riveting rhythms of “Death Pops By on Important Business From Above” are countered by gentle swirls of echo-chamber feedback, but by the time the “Swing low, sweet chariot” chorus kicks in, the song has blossomed into a warm-blooded epic punctuated by slashing guitars. It’s the kind of effect that can only be generated by a group of folks midwifing a song to its most visceral and elegant conclusion; it is, in other words, the sound of a band that’s focused on the journey, not the destination.