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Know Your Product: Abby Mott, Go West! Get East! (self-released)

September 18, 2009
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Four songs. That’s the problem with beguiling songstress Abby Mott’s new EP Go West! Get East!: it’s only four songs. Yes, a mere four tracks that don’t even crack the 20-minute mark in total running time from the supercute vixen with the golden pipes who wrote and recorded her 2007 debut Hearts a’Flutter all by her own bad self. Now she’s backed by her band—drummer Pat Blades, guitarist/backing vocalist/keyboardist/percussionist Jason Hughes, vocalist/backing vocalist Jay Novak—and the results are some totally angelic indie-pop. And at four songs, it leaves you wanting more, more, more, and more.

And that’s the last whining you’ll read here, because on those four songs Mott displays a growing songwriting sophistication and a divine sense of vocal control. She has always sounded pretty—she could read court transcripts and make them sound like buttery dreams—but she’s honed her sense of timing, pacing, and florid moments, making an already distinctive instrument even more alluring. Take “Cars and Jobs and Daytrips,” a countryish—the entire album belies a honky-tonk attitude that Mott and the band tweak into their own folky pop, as the Elephant 6 bands did for so many years or the way Pavement did on “Easily Fooled”—dirge shot through with a levitating bloom of a chorus. A sleepy-time guitar line, drum beat, and organ weep underscores Mott’s stroll through her verses, which quick sketch moments of fleeting time, before she gets to the a stomping two-line chorus that ends “but I can’t put to music my paycheck or the drive.” Mott stretches out that final long “i” into an at first bubbly high note that eventually ends in a resigned sigh, echoing the vocal approach she uses for the first word of each line in the song’s verses, creating vocal frames for he lyrical imagery.

EP closer “Vault” may be Mott’s most stunning vocal performance yet. Essentially a love-gone-wrong ballad—she opens with “you break my heart everyday when I wake up and give it to you,” sung over a such an sad but solid organ and guitar riff that recalls early ’60s Willie Nelson (think “Hello Walls”)—halfway through she leaves the country-ish crooning behind for some damn near gospel moments. It’s a performance that gives the song a classic, nightclub-singers-should-cover-it shine.

Mott can still put together an infectious pop melody, and opener “I Like it I Do” takes a mid-tempo barroom sing-along and transforms it into a rush of symphonic pastoral pop three minutes in, the sort of successful shift in song dynamics that make Decembrists and Arcade Fire fans go weak in the knees. And on “Draw Me a Line,” Mott sings the chorus with the sort of sensual abandon—”Draw me a line shake it and make it unwind”—that would cause fans of Jenny Lewis, the Watson Twins, and Zooey Deschanel to eat their James Perse pants if Mott could get the same sort of exposure.

Abby Mott and Her Band plays a CD-release show in Sonar‘s club room Sept. 19. $10, which includes a copy of Go West! Get East!.

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