Friday, February 20, 2009

Release: Gracefully - The Underground Sundae

The Underground Sundae
The Underground Sundae [EP]
Self-released, 2009
Rating: ****** (6/10)

Underground psychedelic pop band Gracefully (formerly known as So L'il) released a free, downloadable EP on Saturday. Yay!

I've been a fan of Gracefully for a while now, since long before the name-change and through several line-up shifts as well. None of these changes really matter because the band's true engine is the strange and brilliant mind of its founder and (to my knowledge) only consistent member, Ben Malkin. And apparently, that remains intact.

As EPs, and particularly free EPs tend to be, The Underground Sunday seems a little unfinished. It's not Malkin's best work, but it's definitely enjoyable and very worth five minutes to download. It's also not a bad introduction to what this band is all about - dreamy, druggy, shoegazey pop.

By far, the best song of the bunch is "Spank Me Slowly," which sounds nothing like the name suggests - it's a sad, tumbling waltz with lyrics based nautical metaphors, something about being on a sinking ship. It's intensely beautiful and might even make it onto a list of my favorite songs ever.

Of course, I've had this song in my possession for a while now because the band seems to stick it on every release. And I can't really blame them - if I wrote a song this beautiful, you can bet I'd be tacking it onto everything else I did. Also, it's hard to say what's an "official" release from Gracefully. The last thing I have from the band is a CDR with no name or track listing and just a square of an apparently-random magazine page for album art. Is this an LP? Who's to say? And in the end, it doesn't matter if Malkin wants to recycle songs - after all, it's not like he's asking anyone to pay for them!

The other songs are also worth a listen. The EP gives a little more to hold on to than some of the band's work - there are more melodies and structures here that you can get a handle on. It's still very psychedelic though, so don't expect a straightforward listen. The music does meander, drifting in and out of focus and not hurrying towards any destination, but it's got enough pop sensibility to hold my attention anyway.

The only really ungrounded song is the closer, "Dear Whipping Boy," and it wouldn't be a real So L'il release without at least one formless experimental number. And although its brand of experimentalism has been done a thousand times over, "Dear Whipping Boy" is still an enjoyable listen. "Underground Sundae" is probably the strongest track after "Spank Me Slowly," with a quirky and not-quite-catchy melody over a rainbow of noisy chords.

Here's what you do: go to and download the record. Then lie down on your bed, put it on and let your mind wander. It's twenty minutes well spent.

Gracefully on MySpace

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