Six years ago, a band called Whispertown 2000 was opening for Jenny Lewis and the Watson Twins and other indie acts in the Saddle Creek family. At that time, the young L.A. band fronted by Morgan Nagler wavered between rough desert country ballads and Laurel Canyon stoner folk. I caught them at a Nashville show with Lewis and crew, where hometown legends Dave Rawlings and Gillian Welch appeared on stage for a rousing jam with every band on that nights bill. That particular show and subsequent tour caught the attention of the country duo, sparking a partnership between Whispertown (now sans 2000) and Rawlings and Welchs Acony Records.
Whispertowns sophomore release on the label, folk pop EP Parallel, is more than any of the previous iterations of the band, their former material croaking its way through unstable production. Parallel polishes the groups finer points, allowing Naglers weathered voice and stark lyrics to create a deceptive, sunny folk pop atmosphere that explores dark, moody material.
The seven-song release opens with Bit Into a Peach, a sun-drenched tune that hints at an ominous undertone through its melancholy lyrics. The synth-heavy rock veneer of Open the Other Eye veils a character debating between life and death: If you dont wanna wake up/I recommend a long dream. This notion of unbalance and uncertainty flows throughout the successive tracks, Naglers feminine rasp relaying an awareness of lifes illusions on State of Mind and eyelid-heavy dreariness on The Fall, turning a magnifying glass on depression and ennui.
The brooding doesnt weigh down the entire EP, however. Blood From Wine chugs through a characteristic Omaha indie country sound, male and female vocals brightening the EPs content at its middle. Its a strange balance that serves a function of momentary listenability, co-producer Jake Bellows employing unusual rhythms and doom-heavy tones that sustain the drab content. Sleepy, gloomy closer Isnt There More reiterates Parallel’s heartbroken rumination, capping off a multi-faceted piece fit for a dreary day.
Essential Tracks: Bit Into a Peach, Blood from Win, and the Fall