Ryan Garbes

Sweet Hassle

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Ryan Garbes' solo work away from Wet Hair follows a somewhat time-honored tradition of sounding distinctly different from one's main band, in this case exchanging zoned freakouts for more formal songwriting and performance. Not that his first vinyl release, Sweet Hassle, following a number of cassette-only efforts, is some sort of polished performance through and through: with a tangle of keyboard tones, fragmented guitar blues, and general unease surrounding a slightly buried melody, he starts the album with the instrumental "Relay" on an appropriately cryptic note. His vocals first appear on "Boys Are Back" and are as not quite understandable as might be expected, and with that further setting the mood it's not surprising Sweet Hassle works in a particular mode throughout. But if the roots of Garbes' approach build off familiar touchstones of half-bedroom/half-garage indie rock with a more artistic bent, there's a welcome variety throughout that helps further spell out his own space. "Whatever You Want," with its understated rock band chug, focuses more on Garbes' slightly more straightforward singing, still shuddering through effects but finding a sweeter directness as a result. Garbes' more strained/louder vocals on the otherwise understated "Thirst" push things a bit much, but his falsetto on "Dream," partially due to its quietness, is much better, a soft, inviting turn almost when it's least expected. The murkily fun drumming and keyboards on "Why" and "Perfume"'s keyboard/reverbed vocal flow are also winners, while "Easily Influenced," in its own way, might be the most epic number on the album. It's compressed and murky, unsurprisingly, but with its keyboard/guitar combo sounding like a reach to the sky even as a baby's squawks and calls emerge, it's a clear bridge between Garbes' solo and group work, one that works beautifully.

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