Vertical Scratchers

Daughter of Everything

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Vertical Scratchers' first album, Daughter of Everything, shows that there can still be a learning curve for almost any group, even if its members are veteran musicians. This collaboration between the ever-busy John Schmersal and former Triclops!/Anywhere member Christian Beaulieu is much more direct than Schmersal's other 2010s project, Crooks on Tape, which focuses on the quirky sonics that used to decorate the music of his previous band Enon. Indeed, this is some of the most straightforward music of Schmersal's career, and Vertical Scratchers are at their best when they make the most of their classicism. Though songs like "Wait No Longer" evoke some of Schmersal's previous acts thanks to the crunchy guitars and winding falsetto vocals, Daughter of Everything's bite-size songs and stripped-down Anglophilia more often recall Guided by Voices, even before Robert Pollard makes a cameo on "Get Along Like U." The brashly strummy sound of "Turn Me Out" -- which could be a second or third cousin to the Kinks' "Picture Book" -- and "The End" is engaging but also requires plenty of hooks, something Vertical Scratchers don't deliver consistently until the album's second half. The power poppy "Kingdom Come," "Someone," and "Run Around," a playful look at an obsessive crush with words and melodies that chase themselves in circles, show how good Vertical Scratchers can be at their best. While Beaulieu and Schmersal often sound best on the speedy songs that give their observations some momentum, "U Dug Us All"'s infectious melody and "Rainbows"' hazy psych-pop prove they can slow things down effectively as well. All told, Daughter of Everything is a promising, if somewhat scattered collection of wry guitar pop that nods to the best of the '60s and '90s.

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