“One good thing about music, when it hits you, you feel no pain.”
— Bob Marley
With all due respect, Bob is wrong on this one.
I mean, I get what he’s saying, that music wields a special type of nonviolent power, but some of my favorite songs are the ones that hit you where it hurts — on gut-churning topics like mortality, heartbreak and loneliness — with intensity that you can actually feel. Those are the songs I find most vital. They’re the records I’d grab first before escaping from a burning building. Their impact is essential, in every meaning of the word.
Before I’d even had a chance to listen to it, my experience with White Laces’ debut full-length Moves could already be described as “impactful.”
I’d been looking forward to my first full listen happening whenever my (hopefully green) vinyl copy arrived in the mail, but was blindsided by instant gratification on Wednesday afternoon when the band tweeted that the album was available for streaming via Stereogum. This was a welcome development, not only because I lack the virtue of patience, but also because I believe firmly that this level of exposure is in keeping with the tremendous quality of White Laces’ product — especially after having seen the band perform some of these new songs at Gallery 5 in July. I believe my exact words on that occasion were…
All that anticipation and face melting had me bracing for something truly special in Moves, but nothing could have prepared me for the punch that opening track “Trading” packs.
I put a lot of stock in this type of first impression. Some quick context — I decided to start collecting vinyl after I caught a special, hour-long episode of NPR’s All Songs Considered devoted entirely to the White Album’s 40th birthday. The tipping point came as a result of hearing why the tracks are ordered as they are — why certain songs were chosen to open certain sides, why “Back In The U.S.S.R.” made for such a perfect lead track, etc. It was like a switch was flipped. The idea that members of The Beatles sat in a studio, thinking about how each side of the double album should begin and progress, and that I was throwing those decisions out the window by listening on my iPod suddenly became untenable. Ever since, I’ve paid close attention to how songs are presented, and “Trading” is one hell of an opening salvo.
The song pulls you in with a beautiful, aching melody voiced on guitar, setting the stage for a first lyric that hits you like a freight train: “I know I won’t wake up.” Those few words and their accompaniment are so heart-wrenching, so urgent, and that urgency travels with you throughout the rest of Moves like a ghost. It’s a brilliant way to kick off an album, much more rewarding than simply slapping the brightest, catchiest song on the front. Even after repeated listens, this sequence still gets me, grabbing my attention and ushering me forward with reverence.
Second track “Invocation” maintains that sense of momentum with an intense beat, alternating, driving eighth notes and a dominant surf-rock melody. This arrangement — counter-melodic notes played in tandem, two thoughts occupying the same airspace and colliding only occasionally — builds tremendous suspense, rendering the chords that ring out in the song’s satisfying chorus all the more powerful.
“Trading” and “Invocation” provide an incredible one-two punch, but if you manage to pry yourself away from these magnetic opening tracks, an array of equally impactful moments awaits. The haunting drums that punctuate “Impossible Windows“… the masterful guitar line that brings “Twinning” to a close… the lonely bass tones that occupy 4 bars of near-silence in the middle of “Parallel Chills“… the shape-shifting coda that carries epic closer “Crawl/Collapse” from one place and drops it off somewhere else entirely… These are affecting devices, all totally distinct from one another but similarly potent, making for a listening experience that’s both invigorating and diverse.
Preview Moves’ powerful opening combo below, click here to stream the whole album via Stereogum, and click here to pre-order it from Speakertree Records. Your face may melt, but you’ll enjoy every second of it.