Arguably the most infamous contemporary example of the ‘bildungsroman’ surfaces in The Catcher in the Rye, where Holden Caulfield endures a pained — albeit formative — period of growth through physical trials and idealistic clashes. Whether the backdrop is nestled in the suburbs or through the pulsating pavement heart of a sprawling metropolis, that coming-of-age moment is both necessary and poignant.
Suburban New Jersey has a way of consistently raising musicians with keen sensibilities for rock (Titus Andronicus, Julian Lynch). Expectations are appropriately great for Ridgewood-bred youngsters Spook Houses. With their debut Trying, the quartet have fully grasped those wispy memories and idle suburban musings that refined their growth. Consciously or no, the four have constructed a musical bildungsroman.
Though a brash rock ‘n’ roll album at heart, Trying resounds with maturity and a serious knowledge of both space and sense. Tracks such as the head-bashing single “Bad Sound” fold gently into moments of contemplation with the throaty, Malkmus-esque confessional “Old Folks” and the gorgeous drones of “Garden”. The fearsome impending future threads itself often into the lyrics, from old friends buried in the ground and anxious hearts beating violently. Nonetheless it never strays from the swells of rock-steady guitars, although occasionally implementing singing saws in “Trying Pt. 1/2” and trumpets in “July ’09”.
There’s an entire genre dedicated to disillusionment, characterized by those slacker garage jams reverberating with distortion and discontent. Even in its heaviest moments Trying doesn’t thrash with static and anthemic yelps about cheap beer. Rather, it takes cues from those that first embraced the youthful fuzz — Modest Mouse, Pavement, Built to Spill — while still remaining fresh. It attempts and succeeds, far beyond the jagged edges of its slumber-punk peers. Trying is a fluid debut, spellbinding in that way a great story has you holding steadfast to every last word.
Essential Tracks: “Garden”, “July ’09”