The Atlanta/Nashville/Olympia folk pop trio 100 Watt Horse offers a unique spin on the American roots rock genre. The band is inventive and unafraid of bringing in any sound that can bring a song to a new level. Their most recent offering finds the band once again adding a new and exciting wrinkle to their output that places them as one of the more evocative and imaginative groups within their space – and pushing the boundaries on that space.
On It May Very Well Do, 100 Watt Horse has created something unique nowadays: a collection of music meant to be played straight through, no stops. The 15 minute EP, released March 25th on Seagreen Records, is in stark contrast to the current landscape that sees traditional albums becoming less important. With four songs broken up by various interludes, the band has presented listeners with a fully formed and cohesive work that strengthens its narrative through a unique structure. It May Very Well Do doesn’t wax nostalgic, it offers a gentle reminder of the way music can be shaped to provide a worthwhile experience and journey.
It doesn’t take long for the band to buck whatever assumptions may come with a short, rustic sounding EP. Anna Jeter opens with world-weary observations on how women are treated in society. “Some guys / Some bleached and half-alive / Will tell you that you’re pretty / Oh, but you already know” she sings, excoriating the idea of finding worth through others’ compliments. These verses are both a condemnation and an awakening. Jeter practically sighs as she sings the final line, “All padded shoulder pads aside / There’s just no room for women / In the fantasies of men”. She sings like someone who is finally accepting a truth they’ve always known.
Gentle waves and rustling sounds keep up this exhausted state before the next song begins. The lumbering music that follows is full of the promises and dreams of a relationship – like plans to live by the ocean. However, the words aren’t full of the passion of a love burning bright, but instead the regret and unmet potential of a supernova. Suddenly, the sound of a rewinding tape snaps everything into focus as a chugging drum and guitar lead rousing pleas of “I want you OK”. What isn’t clear is whether that’s a confession or a hope. It doesn’t take long to find out what has to crash down as a result of Jeter’s realizations.
A haunting piano gives way to George Pettis strumming an acoustic guitar and lamenting “I can’t breathe / Underwater anymore”. The feeling of invincibility that can come with love is no longer there and Pettis has to learn to walk on land again. The sounds that fill the spaces between each song draw further inward as the EP progresses, nature eventually becoming the white noise of meandering television conversations. Interestingly, the sound of each song seems to grow outward in proportion. After a banal and static filled public access television segment, the band comes roaring in, the instruments roiling like water about to boil. Pettis practically wails the line “What is your life / Where have you been / Is it enough to say you tried”. As the external sounds quiet, the internal turmoil only grows.
Eventually, Pettis comes to the realization that he has to believe there is meaning to his heartbreak, if only to move on: “It’s harder if you don’t believe / That everything has meaning”. Like Jeter early on, he has to hear himself say these truths to fully believe. But he’s aware that simply believing doesn’t necessarily make you feel any better, “It feels the same as flying / But first we dig your deepest pit / And then you find yourself in it”.
This emotional turbulence is followed by the proselytizing of a preacher who practically wraps a bow on this lost love and the uncertainty that lies ahead. “I’m separated from my God, baptize me” the preacher says in the voice of a wayward soul. It may not be God that Pettis needs, but something has to fill his deepest pit.
“Wann It” from last year’s (deep breath) Everything’s Alright Forever and Forever and Forever and Thankyou Thankyou Thankyou Amen explored the irony of our technically connected world feeling more isolated than ever. Juxtaposed with the electronic sounds of a drum machine, Pettis croons “It’s a lonely, lonely time to be alive”. The upbeat tempo and high reaching of Pettis’ voice highlights the disconnect we can feel between outside influences and internal thoughts. Here on It May Very Well Do the band strips down the sound and focus of the conflict between outside and inside, but that only increases the emotional resonance. 100 Watt Horse’s commitment to innovative sounds and structure is refreshing. The EP sets out to change perceptions on how music can be packaged and consumed, and it very well does.
4/2 Nashville, TN @ Charlie Bob’s East Nashville
4/3 Atlanta, GA @ The Mammal Gallery
4/4 Athens, GA @ the rooftop of the Georgia Theatre
4/5 Birmingham, AL @ Desert Island Supply Co.
4/6 Pensacola, FL @ Sluggo’s
4/7 Tallahassee, FL @ HOUSE SHOW
4/8 Macon, GA @ Fresh Produce Records and The Hummingbird
4/11 Asheville, NC @ Static Age Records
4/12 Charlotte, NC @ Snug Harbor
4/13 Durham, NC @ The Pinhook
4/14 Baltimore, MD @ The Crown
4/16 DC @ HOUSE SHOW
4/17 Saylorsburg, PA @ The Mune
4/18 Boston, MA @ TBA
4/20 Providence, RI @ AURORA
4/22 Hamden, CT @ The Space
4/23 @ BARD College
4/24 NYC @ CAKE SHOP NYC