Down the Stairs and to the Left by Midwestern Dirt

"These guys sound just like Silversun Pickups," I said as I passed this new Midwestern Dirt record to Neo in a DM. I hate to define a record like that, but it really is striking just how well singer-guitarist Patrick Mangiaforte can emulate Brian Aubert's dusky, high-pitched whispers, cracks and all. Other similarities pop up in the band's sound, notably in the wandering song structures the Pickups played with early in their career, but that's about it. You won't see Midwestern Dirt kick up a firestorm of delay, the guitars and harmonicas are too rootsy, and Nikki doesn't sub in for a bridge on the title track, which comes very close indeed to Pikul. (If anything, the talk of boats and lo-fi murk sounds more like Earlimart, but that's neither here nor there.)

Yes, despite the comparisons, the group can more than easily stand on their own. "How to Win Friends and Influence Your Uncle", whose title has nothing to with the lyrics, has the structure and drive to make for an absolutely infectious lead single. It's one of the few times the group seems to go somewhere with their very organic, reverberating indie rock. "Act Like You've Been Here Before" and the pensive "Volcano" are similar highlights. This record, especially towards the middle, is the definition of a slow burner, meaning it might take a few listens for some of the less immediate tracks to click. If you stick with it though, this has all the hallmarks of a group with both the songs and the style to go somewhere with them.

Down the Stairs and to the Left

Essential: "Down the Stairs and to the Left", "Act Like You've Been Here Before", "Life in the Hive"
Quintessential: "Dead Leaves"
Non-essential: "Salinger"

Rating: Great
Listen on Spotify