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Album review: Indie rock is alive and well on new Nat Harvie LP

Ah, indie rock. It blooms anew again and again, but it always feels like indie rock. There's just something about languid tempos and great, quivering washes of guitar and tentative, emotional vocals that will always be relevant, it seems.

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Ah, indie rock. It blooms anew again and again, but it always feels like indie rock. There's just something about languid tempos and great, quivering washes of guitar and tentative, emotional vocals that will always be relevant, it seems.

Nat Harvie's new album is just the latest of these types of records to emerge in the Twin Ports. It sounds very now, but it also sounds as if it could've come out in 1992, and Harvie could've gone out on tour with Yo La Tengo or something, and not a single person in the crowd would ever bat an eye.

Harvie's gotten a fair amount of attention over the last couple years amongst local music fans not just because they're making indie rock, but because they're making quality indie rock that recalls a lot of great people who have come before. It's not that Harvie sounds as if they're totally copping moves left and right, but their voice, their approach, is familiar. And to get close to that familiarity means that you gotta have some skills.

From the opening notes of "Cup," the leadoff track of Harvie's debut album "Nat Harvie's Broken Record," it seems clear that Harvie is at least reminiscent of Jeff Buckley, if not outright influenced by the late singer/songwriter. There's something in Harvie's trembling vocals, in the way they draw words out and pronounce them in new ways, that seems very Buckley-esque. This vibe continues throughout the record, but it's not so pervasive as to seem like a tribute. (And, hey, there are much worse people to be compared to than Jeff Buckley.)

"Cup" is a gutsy opener, as it's mainly just Harvie's voice and a spaghetti-western tremolo guitar for much of its runtime. It could easily have worked just as well as the closer to the record, but it sets the mood quite well. Second track "Birthday" is much more emblematic of the album as a whole. It's a more uptempo indie-pop song with enigmatic lyrics like "Oh, bad, wet tinder / oh, fatal curvature / oh, triple holy waning," but also with darkly comic, easily-grasped lines like "I'll be living forever / so long as not everything hurts."

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Harvie's actually got a knack for a potent lyric. There's a lot of blurry-eyed impressionism or surrealism in there, but then they'll sprinkle in real doozies from time to time. On "My My My": "I cannot invent a falling out / with a god I've never met." Later, there's "Everything I do / feels like packing for a trip that won't come through." On "Crow": "200 years down the road / I hope that I die before you do."

There's a lot of foreboding on this record, something akin to death anxiety, something that is concerned with the passage of time. It feels very relatable and true, and these fears seem to be a touchstone for the LP, even when Harvie gets into lyrical areas that are harder to grab onto.

Musically, the album is somewhat bare-bones, but there are beautiful moments like, say, the female-sung bridge on "Left Hand," that kinda come in and refresh the songs when they start to feel a bit samey or skeletal. The production is the same deal, but it's well done and serves the songs.

There are moments when Harvie gets a bit too outside with their vocal affectations (see "Hedonism," for example, where the word "god" turns into something that would've come out of the Target Lady's mouth on "Saturday Night Live"), and the tempos are largely glacial (although "No Teeth" has a fair amount of pep in its step), but the record overall is an impressive piece of work, and it's likely to stick out as one of the better local releases of 2018.

 

Artist: Nat Harvie

Album: "Nat Harvie's Broken Record"

Recorded at: Accessible Recording (Pittsburgh, PA), Scratch Studios (Duluth, MN), "a bedroom in Bogota"

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Produced by: Nat Harvie

Website: www.natharvie.bandcamp.com

Personnel: Nat Harvie (vocals, guitar, synth, violin), numerous guests

Upcoming show: 8 p.m. Saturday with Holly Hansen and Alan Sparhawk at Karpeles Manuscript Museum, 902 E. 1st St.

Tickets: $10-15, All ages

Click here to listen to the single "Birthday."

Related Topics: MUSIC
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