30 seconds into So Little Left To See I had realized I was going to like this. The band revs up their engines and twangs their way immediately right down Summerteeth Ave. The bass bubbles, the drums are up front and guitars wail and howl whiskey. However, lead piper Steven Takeuchi’s throaty drawl is more Jay Farrar or Howe Gelb (Giant Sand) than Jeff Tweedy. The band sounds remarkably tight given they haven’t been playing together for very long. But not all is straightforward Americana ‘n Roll here.
The album’s premiere highlight, ‘Weird’, has an unexpected ambient feel to it with its payload of big, booming drums, eerie guitars and Takeuchi groaning the chorus, ‘there’s something weird going on around here, I couldn’t say what it was’. The gently plucked guitar, dirgey organ and twinkling piano on ‘Winter’ makes for a somber affair while the moving country-stomp of ‘Take A Chance’ recalled the more southern-fried side of the Mekons or Sadies. The instrumental (and aptly-named) ‘Drone’ situates itself nicely in the latter half of the album. I got a pretty big Mazzy Star vibe here. I can almost hear Hope Sandoval and Takeuchi cooing in unison over the smooth, hazy arrangements. Ah, one can only wish. There’s even a few moments of straight up hoedown fun on the undeniably catchy and playful ‘Eyes’.
The band has been compared to Uncle Tupelo in the past and I’m going to reiterate that theme. What separated that outfit from many current artists emulating their sound is UT were always willing to skate the thin ice on a long pond. You’ll find Takeuchi and friends following that routine and succeeding just as well on So Little Left To See. There’s a dreamy, yet rugged and urgent, quality to just about all of these songs – adding charm where it’s least expected. Couple that with strong songcrafting and more than capable musicians and it allows for quite the memorable release. Takeuchi recently moved to NYC while the other band members remained behind in Seattle. Let’s hope the band can find the time and resources to continue recording together.