by Brian J. Audette
On their fifth LP Do What May, The Sour Notes continue to do what they do best. Simply put: they rock. Not counting the reissue/re-master of their fourth album Last Looks, it’s been over three years since the last full length release from Austin’s indie psych poppers The Sour Notes. The Notes haven’t been idle however and in addition to a steady number of local gigs, have toured extensively, while also releasing several new songs during the interim in the form of 2012’s Wait // White 7″ split with Marmalakes and their 2013 In the Meanwhile cassette. While both of those releases contain songs that made their way onto Do What May, don’t be fooled into thinking that they’re all this album has to offer. If anything, Do What May is The Sour Notes’ most diverse release yet, with offerings ranging from folksy to psychedelic, while still providing the kind of bouncy guitar pop the Notes have become known for.
Opening with the titular ”Do What May,” The Sour Notes launch this album with a bang. Hearkening back to the guitar driven work of the band’s third album It’s Not Gonna Be Pretty, “Do What May” is an instant classic that gets the blood pumping and sets the tone for what’s to come. Veering off into decidedly more progressive pop territory, “Don’t Listen” follows with eerie synths and backing horns accompanying a sultry bass line that’s as smooth as silk. It’s a full serving of Sour Notes psych pop and just the first hint of the band’s continued evolution on this album. Do What May’s third track “With Ease, With Time” take us in a slightly different direction than we’ve seen thus far for The Sour Notes. Featuring Little Lo’s Bailey Glover on vocals, “With Ease, With Time” trots along with a rhythm that’s half country and half indie pop, accented by bright horns and Jared’s signature guitar work.
Next up is the now ubiquitous “Two Hands Wait,” a track that first showed up on the band’s split with Marmalakes in 2012. Tinged with progressive shades lovingly cribbed from King Crimson’s “21st Century Schizoid Man,” the track’s frenetic horn-backed intro/outro juxtaposed with Jared Boulanger’s smoky vocals never fails to get me moving. Without missing a beat “Cutthroat” comes in next, ramping up to the sound of a droning organ and anxious guitar. Easily recognizable to fans of The Sour Notes’ live show, the meandering intro is broken only by the exuberant verse/chorus dueling vocals of Jared along with Mirror Travel’s Lauren Green, before it spirals out into synth drone and psych pop menace.
A duo of lighter tracks comes next in the rotation: “In The Meanwhile” (with vocals by Löwin’s Sara Houser) features a pleasingly wispy and delicate piano and string arrangement while the mellow synth instrumental “Loose Ends” completes the set. “Somewhere They Can’t Enter” brings us back into classic Sour Notes territory as an indie pop gem, filled with subtle angst and twee delight. Possibly my favorite track on the album though is “It Could Be Worse,” a balls out rocker that brings back the psychedelic slant from earlier, with ringing guitars and biting organs that thrashes about as it concludes in an anxious, desperate swell.To wrap the album up “Lay Me Down Smooth,” a downbeat, piano backed number, with weeping guitars and melancholy vocals, softly caresses our tympanic membranes as we subconsciously reach for the “play” button again.
It’s no secret that I’ve been a fan of The Sour Notes for some time, but the fact of the matter is that they continue to not only be one of the better live bands in town, but raise the bar on themselves with every single recording. While it may have taken three years, Do What May is the perfect follow up to Last Looks and without any missing links, writes the next chapter in this band’s continuing story. Short, but sweet Do What May is worth spending some time with and The Sour Notes are a band worth keeping an eye on.
You can listen to Do What May in its entirety or pick up a CD copy exclusively at Waterloo Records right now, and you can see them live on May 13th at Empire Control Room as part of the Red Bull Sound Selects Series. On July 4th the album will have its wide release, along with the debut of the vinyl version.