Kingsley Flood – Colder Still EP

Kingsley Flood - Colder Still EP

If the past two years have been any indication, 2012 looks like it’ll be good to Boston’s Kingsley Flood.  The Americana sextet that first seized the public’s attention with its sinewy 2010 debut, Dust Windows, has established a palpable indie notoriety over the past year, getting media attention from NPR and Paste, receiving awards from regional music publications like the Boston Phoenix, earning coveted spots at SXSW and CMJ, and touring on bills that have included My Morning Jacket and Styx.  Yes, you read that correctly.

Naturally, a sophomore LP is all but being demanded of the band, which is likely champion the plucky spirit and rambling folksy predilections of their past success.  Kinglsey Flood unfurled its first bit of post-Dust Windows material this past spring with “I Don’t Wanna Go Home,” an irreverent fusion of barroom grooves and not-lookin’-back spirit whose poetic storyline was nearly overwhelmed by an accompanying music video of honey-grubbing bears on a heist.  Turns out the track is part of a larger package – the Colder Still EP, which the band is prepping for an official release in January while fans await the arrival of LP No. 2.

A purported examination of the “quintessentially American pursuit of happiness,” Colder Still boasts the ragtag atmosphere and rootsy ethos of Dust Windows but also yields subtle alterations in songwriting, suggesting their next big move could also be the Flood’s most varied to date.  Indeed, frontman and rhythm guitarist Naseem Khuri appears to be now going in a more reflective direction with his lyrics, resulting in songs that dole out heady streams of soul searching juxtaposed by wiry instrumental fits.  It is, in short, exactly what one would want from an act on the rise – familiarity and development tempered by a sly sense of humor that keeps any sense of labored artistic self-awareness in check.

Like its overarching theme of finding joy in the material world, Colder Still is really a tug of war between impudence and vulnerability, adroitly addressed in each of the EP’s six songs.  “Wonderland” transforms a tentative pattern of minor-keyed guitar arpeggios and a moment of confessionalism (“Brother I’ve been lying all along / my collar’s not as clean as I let on”) into an unhinged Western-styled jam of violin/trumpet dueling, vocal harmonizations, and George Hall’s wondrously barbed guitar soloing.  “Black Boots” presents at first as a Califone song with its chain gang percussion, further emboldened by elated group vocals, sassy guitar and trumpet solos, and cocksure temptations (“So you wanna get a rise / let me put black boots on and we’ll take it outside / we’re gonna make wrong right / uptown’s gonna go downtown tonight”).

“Quiet Quiet Ground” is the obviously choice for the group’s next single, if such a thing exists anymore.  What begins as an understated fusion of fetching guy/girl melodies and mandolin timbres emerges as a country-rock tune, replete with acoustic guitar strums, Brad Paisley-approved soloing, and a false sense of invincibility proffered by notions like “sailing the seas in a cracked bathtub “ and climbing mountains with “block flip flops and a pick axe made of glass.”

Colder Still winds down with the dichotomy of “Mannequin Man” and “House on the Hill,” the former of which might be as close as Kingsley Flood ever got to alternative rock.  The song is chalk-full of overdriven guitars and clattering drums, and is also one of the first in recent memory to prominently feature the melodic finesse of bass player Nick Balkin.  “House on the Hill” exudes an enervated temperament not unlike that of Dust Windows’ “Back in the Back,” but with a darker milieu rounded out by keyboard ambience and the pizzicato plucks of Jenée Morgan’s violin.

Not a group to rest on its laurels, Kingsley Flood has plenty of shows and release events lined up between now and the midwinter street date for Colder Still.  For all of the group’s studio appeal, it’s in a live setting that the band’s delightful fracas is best experienced.  Believe the hype and go check them out.  As a bonus, you’ll have access to the new EP before it hits shelves.