When listening to Debt, the debut album from Brooklyn-based newcomers Baked, it’s hard to imagine it being the product of just one band. The nine-song LP sounds more like a compilation from nine different acts than it does a cohesive product from a single group. Normally, this sort of excessive variation would be startling, but when it’s done this well, it’s more refreshing than aimless. Though all of Baked’s music falls under the umbrella of indie rock, it occupies an array of different moods within the genre, from ripping, fuzzed-out punk to tribal, percussion-induced groove and stoned, listless pop.
Consisting of members who split time in New York-based groups like Lost Boy ? and Leapling, the five-piece was brought up playing house shows and smaller clubs. In 2013, the band released a self-titled EP, with two of those songs, “Fleatnam” and “Wet Blanket”, making an appearance on Debt. Like any band coming out of the Brooklyn DIY community with a record deal, Baked’s album is rough around the edges, but not in a way that suggests amateurism; rather, its ramshackle quality gives the songs a lived-in warmth.
Debt kicks off with “Cramsey”, a barreling, power chord-heavy romp straight out of ’70s-era CBGBs. From there, the intensity tapers off in favor of the lackadaisical jangle of “Wet Blanket” and drowsy swoon of “Don’t Trip”. Throughout, lead vocalist R.J. Gordon’s often monotonous delivery manages to engage, fitting the album’s various atmospheres. It isn’t until highlight “Mick Jagger”, though, that Gordon reveals a sliver of vocal dexterity. Aided by a hypnotic, primal beat and Davey Jones’ crashing guitars, the song finds Gordon extending his range for Debt‘s best offering. Though it runs just over six minutes, “Mick Jagger” doesn’t meander. A song that good shows a band with a sophisticated ear for nuance and emotional resonance, making a lot out of a relatively simple composition.
While the rest of the album is hardly as powerful as “Mick Jagger”, its prominent hooks have a lingering effect. “Codec” is another solid single, with its woozy reverb and Gordon’s rhythmic delivery offering the nearest thing Debt has to a chorus that can be called anthemic. Closing out the record is the breezy, ambling “Hungry Ghosts”, with the repeating mantra “wait another fucking minute” dreamily ending the offering. Through Debt, Baked prove adept at channeling multiple indie rock mindsets with a diverse collection of songs. Not attempting to reinvent or make a resounding statement, Debt is effective for its modesty. It’s charming, homespun, and even infectious.
Essential Tracks: “Mick Jagger”, “Codec”, and “Don’t Trip”