On Great Lakes’ Contender, songwriter Ben Crum swings between indie facets — digging out dark psychedelics from the dirt one moment and skating on the remnants of Bob Mould and The Wrens the next. Quivering strums and fuzz-caked leads tangle and Crum ties the tangles together without too many knots. That’s always the hardest part of embracing a bit of an eclectic mix, making it not sound like a hodgepodge where influences were thrown at the wall and left to splatter into one another, but Great Lakes find common threads with ease on their latest album. The band has been kicking around the Athens scene for some time, popping up on hometown hollows like Kindercore and Orange Twin, working on the periphery of the E6 foundry. Ben’s turned up on releases by of Montreal and The Essex Green and the latter’s Chris Ziter pays back the favor and dips in for some vocals on Contender.
The record seems to burn brightest when Crum edges closer to the darkness that kicks up on the opener and resurfaces in subsequent gems like “Easy When You Know How,” but all the same, when the album is swaying though late-night country rambles, Ben makes his songs leave a dent. Those songs make up the bulk of the album, finding Crum cutting into Sugar territory, albeit with quite a bit more twang in his repertoire. Songs like “Last Night’s Smoke” and “Baby’s Breath” push the hooks out into the open, swinging for the indie fences and quite often clearing them. With this move to indie-pop outpost Happy Happy Birthday To Me, Great Lakes offer up a solidly built record that should please those looking hangdog hooks to get you through the day.
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