15 October 2018 (released)
07 November 2018
Any band can struggle with the question of accessibility in terms of their musical choices. Of course, a group will strive to make their sound resonate with the most people possible and logically speaking, the best way to do that should be to aim for the meat of the bell curve. That place sonically that gets the most people moving without offending too many sensibilities by getting too shocking or far-out. With most aspects of life, this reasoning prevails. However, art is about making choices that astound, confuse and attract attention. It's about seeing the world from the fringes. The outsider's perspective is actually the one that gets the most traction, not the one who is surfing the wave of the law of averages.
San Fransisco collective Crooked Flower is a group who's more eccentric urges lead them on dreamy tangents of jam band psychedelia yet they keep one limb tethered to the ground with an ear-friendly sound that hovers between '80s new wave and jazzy bar rock. Their latest album Into the Light largely dials back the experimental departures of their previous live record, Blooming – The Light Rail Sessions, in favour of tighter, poppier arrangements.
'Dancing' opens the album with a light disco beat and slick, flanged guitars. Singer Angie Dang lends a Chrissie Hynde style vocal to this new wave throwback. The first side continues on with predictable alt-rock placeholders. Tightly arranged and produced but not particularly memorable.
It's the second half where things get interesting. 'Around and Around' kicks off with the same chill vibe but Dang's vocals crackle symbiotically with Patrick Shields snappy percussion. There's an effortless, light, West Coast energy that comes through on this track. Just when you think you've got it pegged, the band pulls you back into a fluid, phantasmagoric break down that yanks your head out of the game for a moment of perspective, shifting the song from good to great. '10 Million' embraces the group's dub influences letting Dang slip further into ethereal territory.
The album's most triumphant point comes with the closer 'Own World'. Piano, bass and drums fluently set the song in motion like sand being let slip through open fingers. They lead the melody right into Dan Ingberman's waiting guitar lick and Dang's soulful verse. The band's aforementioned psychedelic tenancies are let out to play on this one. No extended freak-out, just enough to imbue the track with the band's personality.
Into the Light begins somewhat uneventfully but eventually opens up to showcase the group's creative talents. The first half feels restrained where the second half feels alive and free. An album that delves further into the style of the latter half would be enthralling. Outside of the hoards of acts at the middle of the bell curve.