The Washington, D.C.-based duo of Raul Zahir De Leon and Miguel Lacsamana added drummer/percussionist John Masters since their debut LP as Stamen & Pistils, 2005’s End of the Sweet Parade, and they’ve really expanded their sound. Though at times indulgent in length and in strange openers and/or closers, there are some wonderful harmonies to chew on in this record.
Towns opens with one of its top two tracks, “Second Hand Valise”. Stripped-down and sweet, it is also touching and moving, growing with techno beats and piano keys. It is really only exceeded by third track “Quiet Country”, a great sad indie-country number, with duet vocals thanks to guest-singer Mikal Evans. “Valise” is mimicked by the following “To That What We Belong”, “Country” by middle track “Walk On” (featuring Carol Bui), but both are weighed down a bit by the biggest flaw on this record: weird openings & closings. “Belong” has an odd little techno intro & outro, while “Walk”s exit is ultra-quiet. The austere “A Death In Ronkonkoma” has a strange, sped-up, backwards talking beginning, while closer “At Home Amongst Your Tangles” begins with what sounds like an old instructional tape (though that one’s actually kind of quirkily interesting).
With Towns, Stamen & Pistils show they have their fundamentals down, but sometimes their extra efforts go astray, and not just at the beginnings & endings. “An Elegy For Thee” has nice guitars and echoing beats in the chorus instrumental, but goes on a bit too long in the verse, and while the repeated, flowing rhythms of “Possessive Nouns” are interesting at times, they can also drag. Meanwhile, the haunting electronica of “Hands Washing Water” is, if anything, not ambitious enough.
Not the first thing you’d expect to come out of DC, there’s a lot one wouldn’t expect on Towns. Most of it is good, like Stamen & Pistils’ base of indie-folk meets indietronica, or the guest female vocals. Sometimes the band is off, especially at the beginning & endings of songs, but that’s not where the heart of a song is, nor the heart of Towns.
MP3 Stream: "Second Hand Valise"