Spokane – Close Quarters EP

Close Quarters EP

My, Spokane has been busy. Since 2000, they released their debut full-length, Leisure & Other Songs, this EP, and their second full-length, The Proud Graduates. Serving to connect the two albums, Close Quarters is five songs of lush, lovely folk-inspired pop music lead by Spokane mastermind Rick Alverson, the former frontman of Drunk.

Like Drunk, Spokane flirts between the realms of pop and folk music, although Spokane more appropriately fits with similar slow-core style bands like Low and Ida. Alverson’s rich vocals are the focus here, and he has always managed to sound as if his heart is breaking with every word. The accompaniment is what sets Spokane apart. Filled with acoustic guitars, glockenspiel, cello, pedal steel guitar, and other assorted instruments, Spokane is at once both melancholy and dreamily beautiful, especially when Courtney Bowles adds her lovely accompaniment to Alverson’s vocals.

“The Caution I’ve Avoided” kicks the album off about as soft and slow as the band gets. The vocals blur into the mix of steel guitar and brushed drums, making a soft and dreamy combination. Bowles’ vocals add the perfect accompaniment here. “Good Fortune,” originally recorded for Dutch Public Radio’s VPRO Christmas album, has some lovely tinkling bells and nice acoustic guitar to provide the framework for Alverson’s so-soft vocals. But the violin here makes this song my favorite of the bunch, and I wish it was used more often. Oddly enough, the band covers Bauhaus on “All We Ever Wanted Was Everything,” and it’s given a suitably haunting feel, although it’s done much slower here. On this song, Alverson’s vocals stand out a bit more, which is a nice touch. A bit more lighter in tone, “Behind the School” has absolutely gorgeous backing vocals by Bowles, very airy and lovely, and the closer, “The Lean Year,” features even more of Bowles’ vocals, leading me to believe she’s vital to this band, especially as she picks up this almost languid, too-quiet number.

You can’t really listen to Spokane without picturing endless, lazy Sunday afternoons and dreary summer evenings. The music is so soft and textured, so rich and lovely, that you might find yourself lost within it. Because Alverson’s vocals are so soft and textured, you might find that Spokane becomes background music, and that’s this band’s only real fault.