Netherfriends: Barry and Sherry Review
To keep the confusion to a minimum, the Chicago-based psych-pop band Netherfriends is really just the brainchild of one man: multi-instrumentalist Shawn Rosenblatt. Looking back on their last release, the well-executed Calling You Out EP, it’s not really what has changed in the Netherfriends camp, it’s who has changed. Judging by his MySpace page, Rosenblatt has had more collaborations and merry-go-round line-up shuffles than Wilco’s Jeff Tweedy. During the recording of Calling You Out, he had Paul Newmann and Justin Fernado backing him up. Now it appears that other multi-instrumentalist Fernado – who picks up guitar, synth, vocals, glockenspiel and melodica – is the only “non-touring member” and presumably the one who helped out Rosenblatt most on his newest release, Barry and Sherry. The compositions and full sound featured throughout the tracks on Barry and Sherry only add to the fact that Rosenblatt performs with a variety of individuals live to give his songs a larger-than-life feel – while at the same time bouncing along his tripped-out, “mid-fi” soundscapes.
When I was reviewing his first EP I tried my best not to pigeonhole Netherfriends into a genre that has only surged exceedingly post-Merriwether Post Pavilion. But, to be honest, it’s very difficult not to liken Rosenblatt’s delivery to that of Panda Bear. Even some of his tangled loops are reminiscent of something that could easily be found in the dream haze of Person Pitch. The album kicks off with “Bret Easton Ellis Novel.” The initial vocal chimes only strengthen the previous comparison to Panda Bear, but then the song it rushes into some clean, cutty indie riffage. There’s plenty of dramatics on the opener and equally impressive vocal hooks and loops. On the breezy “I’m Gonna Start,” Rosenblatt channels his best Isaac Brock. Much like his previous release, Rosenblatt doesn’t let any pretensions get in the way of his signature tongue-in-cheek lyricism. On “Washed Up 80’s TV Star” he professes “I am deemed the voice of a generation that steals my songs like a new sensation/ I’m gonna throw away the flavor of the day/ If this record’s free why even bother to pay.” This may be a stab at his own songwriting as it ends with a girl prying at Shawn saying, “You base you life on, like, the imitation Shawn.” One of the middle cuts, “Lead You Through the Misty Fog of Milwaukee Ave,” is nothing short of Rosenblatt’s opus. As the longest and strongest song on the album, “Lead You Through” is the most impressive offering Netherfriends have ever delivered.
At nine tracks and 40 minutes, Barry and Sherry is certainly a more cohesive and realized piece than his introductory work Calling You Out. For better or worse, even if Rosenblatt knows he may be ripping off a piece of the Animal Collective pie, he is comfortable and content in his own skin. He is indebted to the big names in indie electronica, but from track to track he never gets caught in a particular sound. He is able change up the format on every song, begging for multiple listens. There are two things that Rosenblatt has going for him which I think make Netherfriends successful: first, he has plenty of creative individuals surrounding him to help fully realize the Netherfriends sound. Second, he isn’t afraid to write story book lyrics that often come off goofy and cheeky, but at the same time give his songs a certain charm and uniqueness. Not everyone can be Animal Collective and Rosenblatt understands that full well. That’s why the golden rule of Netherfriends could very well be: release music that makes sense to you, that’s all.
— Matt Linden
Netherfriends – I’m Gonna Start
Side note: Rosenblatt will soon be embarking on his 50 songs in 50 states project.
A message from his MySpace:
Give myself a deadline of one year (starting April 1st2010) to play a show and write and record a song in each state in the USA. 50 songs in 50 states in one year.The songs will have to be longer that two minutes and I can’t start writing the song until I cross the state line (so, no cheating.) Yes, I know you people will call me awannabe(Sufjan,) but seriously! This project is actually not a joke, plus I will accomplish it.
What I need:
-Musicians who can tour. (Especially a talented drummer who can record to a click track.)
-A venue in each state
-A house in each state. (Preferably one with a basement.) Where I can record the song and stay the night. If you have any instruments or a piano that I could use for the recording, that would be ideal as well.
-Suggestions for people/ bands to contact for venues (especially in Alaska, Hawaii, and most of the West Coast) or to help contribute to the recordings.
-Some Filmmakers. Anyone who would be interested in documenting this project or editing the footage from the tours.
– Donations or Sponsorships. This one is a little hairy. I guess I might need some cash to get to Hawaii and Alaska…
Feel free to email me [email protected] with help or encouraging words.