Four songs and that’s it. “The Hour Glass.” “Through Your Eyes.” “All The Riches.” And “Tidal Waves.” Those four tracks paint Thurlow’s “Spokes” EP, an effort issued last year by the husband-and-wife duo of Jacqueline Caruso and Augustus Green who got their start in this area before eventually migrating to Los Angeles to presumably chase the rock-star dream.
It makes sense, really. Because of all the albums reviewed in the short history of this column, “Spokes” is easily the best thing the Frederick area has cultivated. Staying around here could only hinder these guys’ chances at receiving the one big break that eludes most musicians. As it goes, this four-song EP proves that it isn’t a matter of “if” Thurlow will receive a boost into the common hipster’s mainstream — it’s merely a matter of “when.” And if the meteoric rise of other indie duos who have ruled the music world over the last five years (The White Stripes and The Black Keys, for instance) is any indication of exactly how much the popular music lexicon is always willing to accept and celebrate these kinds of acts, there is no reason to think Thurlow won’t be appearing on the cover of Spin, NME or Rolling Stone sometime within the next few years.
“Hour Glass” is the perfect way to begin this indie pop release because of … yes … its indie pop perfection. A boppy acoustic guitar falls into the pocket with the one ingredient essential to any indie duo’s success: an electronic drum pattern. The formula works fantastically here, and as Green’s clean vocals proclaim “Time is not on your side,” you can forget about subconsciously humming anything other than this track’s chorus for the days and weeks ahead.
Caruso then proceeds to overshadow the rest of the recording with “Through Your Eyes” and “All The Riches.” The former’s beginning organ/vocal combination will more than likely make the hairs on the back of your neck stand up straighter than a Marine at boot camp (and if that doesn’t work, her constant “I want your touch to change me” refrain toward the end of the song most certainly will). It’s also the most sugary song of the bunch with its quirky up-tempo feel and the straight guitar chords that strum through the chorus like a lazy Sunday afternoon.
The latter, “All The Riches,” breaks a bit from the pop mold as Thurlow offers up the closest thing to a ballad “Spokes” sees. Here, Caruso evokes the Bell & Sebastian offshoot God Help The Girl’s Catherine Ireton almost perfectly, making any listener wonder if Caruso has made any uncredited appearances on Stuart Murdoch’s largely unknown (yet still great) side project. The song itself is so palpably atmospheric, you can almost feel the fog surround you as the track finds its footing. The live drum sound that plays the track out cements this as the saddest, most morose performance these local natives express.
And then, to draw serious comparisons to at least one of those aforementioned darling duos, garage rock appears on the set’s final song, “Tidal Waves.” Green steps back into the spotlight for a lead vocal here that suggests there really isn’t anything these two can’t do well. The synths and keys are traded in for electric guitars that serve as the driving force behind a song that proves to be more powerful than all three previous tracks combined. But even so, the pop remains prevalent with the repetitive choruses and the straightforward rock groove. It’s a showcase for an unexpected side of the group that proves Thurlow is not a mere one-trick pony.
What makes “Spokes” the perfect EP is that it’s just that — an EP. It’s a quick four-song ride that accentuates the duo’s strong sides without ever really revealing any possible flaws in Caruso’s and Green’s abilities. Had this been a full-length release, maybe there would have been a glimmer of disappointment within one of these songs. Maybe there would have been throwaway tracks. Or maybe the two wouldn’t have been able to give each song the amount of attention it would have deserved.
But would have, should have and could have mean nothing here. The only true thing that matters is that this young duo has achieved perfection this early in their careers. “Spokes” is a hipster’s dream for all the right reasons. Now if only Thurlow can keep it all together for a possible full-length release someday. Who knows? You might be seeing their mugs on the covers of magazines sooner than you think.
**** 4 STARS OUT OF 4 ****