Archives, at show number one, before they were Grand Archives.
Way back in October, Seattle's Grand Archives released a four-song set for free on their web site called the Villains Demos, apparently featuring a few contenders for their forthcoming record, which will be the Sub Pop band's third. The set received scant attention, most likely because there hasn't been a whole lot of anticipation around what the band's going to do next.
Formed as Archives by former Band of Horses co-vocalist Mat Brooke, the band was all the buzz in town in 2007. After releasing four demos, they immediately caught the eye of the indie tastemakers at Pitchfork, got play from KEXP, signed a deal with Sub Pop, and went on the road with Modest Mouse. But their self-titled, full-length debut in 2008 was over produced, featured more instruments than a high school concert band, and included none of the energy of the demos. Their follow-up, 2009's Keep In Mind Frankenstein, wasn't any better.
The Villains Demos, on the other hand, show some promise.
The closing track, "Are We Coming to Get You?" is the best thing the band's ever released. Brooke's faint voice is at its best when he's not trying too hard, when he's not trying to shove too many words or too much volume into a song. "Are We Coming to Get You" is a patient grower that plays to Brooke's strengths as a sharp songwriter with willingness to lean back and see where the song goes. This is also the closest to Built to Spill GA's ever sounded, with one foot in the club and the other in the hack circle with the other indie kids with a soft spot for the Allman Brothers.
We've heard this from Brooke & Co. before. The early demo for "Torn Blue Foam Couch" found Brooke leaning into a groove and remaining stoic even as the song blew up around him. But they tossed in a harp and trumpet on the full-length and it felt forced, and carried none of the heft of the original.
If we hear more of this unfiltered sound on Villains, we may finally hear Grand Archives live up to the excitement of those first demos. And, if not? We've still got some better-than-average demos that didn't cost us a thing.