It’s a risky experiment to kick an album off with a mellower resonance than where it leads you. Yet like every single morning of your entire life, Plaza begins tentatively, curious in its skin and heavy-lidded. “Passersby,” the opening song, by vibe is an awakening, driven as it is by such lullabying sonic qualities as wiry guitars and flittering strings, approximating a rouse from some deep creative slumber. The thing is, Quilt have been pretty busy since their inception, reinventing their loose psychedelic folk into smarter, more technical songwriting than was found on their good-but-trite self-titled debut.
The hypnotic voice on the opener belongs to Anna Fox Rochinski, one of three Quilt members to contribute songs to this record, giving the album a delightfully uneven panorama of sound. Rochinski’s voice is full-bodied and sultry, witchy when it needs to be on lyrics like “Knowing eyes of passersby gaze into mine.” In her capable songwriting hands, Quilt can take on the visage of a cauldron-stirring rock ‘n’ roll coven, groovy arbiters of trippy pop on “Roller” or Stax-centric funk-popsters as heard on the up-tempo jam “Hissing My Plea.” Her imprint further bewitches the new wave wham of ‘O’Connor’s Barn,” a strange rocker replete with Tom Verlaine-inspired guitar leads and a slacker-y chorus that asks “Are you looking for an answer?/Maybe you should want more.”
The dichotomy represented by just one of the Quilters is a good gauge for the sonic adventurousness of the rest of the band. Guitarist Shane Butler’s “Eliot St.” is a dreamy, pining track that uses double pianos and acoustic guitars to anchor a melancholy narrative about a guy who’s mired in the misery of past love, Butler’s alto warbling “Send me the notes/I’ve been walking silently through the ghosts of what we’ve known/They only showed us the sad signs of our start without the growth.”
In “Eliot St.,” the band shores up its cadre of emotional vibrations, plucking adolescent memoir and pairing it with the candor of open-sourced songwriting, wrenching haunted melodies from the mire of old and broken wishes.
As alluded to, the second-half of the album comes hot, with drummer John Andrews’ lone songwriting contribution, the ghostly folk number “Something There,” positioning itself as something of a transitional tune, exposing the strength of yet another co-conspirator with the melodic arsenal to rival and complement Rochinski and Butler. And as with all of the songs on Plaza, when the sum of that triptych of voices converges, it’s really a beautiful thing to hear.