Named after the Neutral Milk Hotel song, Communist Daughter has been based in Wisconsin and claimed by Minnesota as sweet, smoldering folk-rock on par with Bon Iver and DeYarmond Edison. Even though frontman Johnny Solomon’s poignant songwriting has touched chords in the Midwest for years, the band still remains largely unknown outside of that region. Their new EP, Lions & Lambs, chronicles Solomon’s latest recovery from addiction, moving away from being a “recovery band” and toward a wider audience. Though Communist Daughter preserves the delicacy of their earlier material, Lions & Lambs’ new, forceful rhythms push the band, like Solomon, toward self-reinvention.
“Speed of Sound (Remix EP)” will likely sound familiar to fans of Communist Daughter, since it first appeared on their debut LP, 2010’s Soundtrack to the End. In new context, however, opening line “Man, I hate this town” resonates with Solomon’s vocal desire to break out of Wisconsin, even if every surge of his fingers along the strings rings identically to the original. Lullaby “City Love”—like “Skinny Love” in title and vocal tenor—rocks so quietly you can hear when Solomon’s tongue leaves the roof of his mouth to say, “I want to know what happy is,” before the horns, which would’ve fit in on In the Aeroplane Over the Sea, rise to the fore.
They foreshadow the baritone sax that burns throughout follower “Heart Attack”, dogging the band’s already ominous whistling and piano plinks with an unpleasant weight that Communist Daughter rarely, if ever, instrumentally expressed before. Similar sonic themes burden fittingly titled opener “Ghosts”, whose kick drum roils under Solomon’s denials (“I’m not old, but I’m not young/ I’m not a martyr if I run”), trying to excuse, fight, and escape from his inner demons. “Avery” (no relation to NMH) strikes a twee balance between the album’s Lions and Lambs with minor-heavy verses that segue into a gentle chorus fortified by vocalist Molly Moore’s harmonies.
Since the EP is only six tracks long, it’s hard to tell if Communist Daughter will carry that weight to their next full-length. But there’s no question that Lions & Lambs’ dark undertones promise an ironically bright future for a band whose new material could find them expanding, along with their sound, past the borders of Solomon’s Prescott, WI. Maybe he can finally leave his demons there, too.
Essential Tracks: “Ghosts”, “City Love”