Envy, aside from being one of the Seven Deadly Sins, is also a pretty effective motivator. As illustration of this, one needs to look back to the friendly rivalry between The Beatles and the Beach Boys in the 1960’s. Upon hearing rough mixes of Pet Sounds, Paul McCartney purportedly went back to England with a mandate to step up the game. From that emerged Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band. That in turn spurred Brian Wilson’s conception of Smile!, an album that up until only a few years ago was deemed doomed and scattered to time. The point is that rivalries like these push the creative community farther. That’s never a bad thing.
So it is with no small envy that one listens to The Twisted Trees, the latest record by And How, and feels that twinge. The recording, while being brand new, has the spiky, no-nonsense energy of New York 1977 all over it, with the emergent new wave, prior to the keyboard onslaught that would co-opt it, being the closest touchstone. As a band, And How has always been a generator of remarkable independent rock/pop, but never has sounded as pinpoint sharp as they do with this release. It is one of those records you start and stick with until the end, and it moves like a whirlwind.
Now the twist. And How is not a band per se, but the creative moniker of Sean Severson who has lovingly and painstakingly put the recording together piece by piece at home. That’s not a surprise anymore. Technology has enabled one-man-bands from all around the world to make complicated recordings, and then launch them away. In this reviewer’s estimation and experience, a lot of them sound like one-man-bands though. That’s not a knock, but an assessment of inherent limitations with the autonomy of such enterprises. That The Twisted Trees sounds as full and “live” as it does, and to know that there is quite a lot of construction that went into making it, should provoke much envy in the minds of homebrew musicians such as Severson is. And hopefully, what they produce afterward will at least be as good as The Twisted Trees. They have their work cut out for them
You can download The Twisted Trees for free at Bandcamp.com by clicking here: http://andhow1.bandcamp.com/album/the-twisted-trees