The worst you can say about Leland Sundries’ two EP releases — 2010’s “The Apothecary” and 2012’s “The Foundry” — is that they were frustratingly short (as EPs are wont to be). Thick stews of steampunk Americana that made the most of frontman Nick Loss-Eaton’s gnarly rasp, both pointed toward bigger things to come.
With “Music for Outcasts,” the band’s first full-length album, that bigger thing has arrived, and it was worth the wait.
Operating on a broader canvas than the EPs, and boasting a more alternative feel, the band finally gets to stretch on “Outcasts.” They find their inner Clash on guitar-fueled rockers like “Greyhound From Reno,” wail through wild psychobilly distortion on “Bad Hair Day” and conjure up what could be a long-lost “Blonde on Blonde” outtake with “Freckle Blues.” “We rushed uptown see Bob Dylan sing and play,” sings Eaton on that melancholy blues track, appropriately namechecking the bard. “Afterwards, you didn’t have nothing to say.”
But one thing that “Music for Outcasts” carries over from the EPs is a cutting sense of humor — like on the sardonic opener “Apocalypse Love Song,” which asks “Would a zombie attack bring you back to me?” — and a literary array of flesh-and-blood characters, many of them women, whom you’ll miss when they’re gone.
This goes just as much for the struggling transplant of “Stripper From Bensonhurst” (“She sips her beer and watches the Today show; this is not how New York was supposed to go”) as it does the long-haired girl driving east in a “cloth-top car leaking banjo sounds” on the buoyant, alt-country-flavored “Maps of the West,” the track you’re most likely to find yourself humming in the shower. (It’s also the best showcase for Loss-Eaton’s fine harmonica chops, although the opening to the plaintive “Keys in the Boot” is a close second.)
And on the moody first single “Studebaker,” Loss-Eaton’s cinematic lyrics — it’s based partially on the film “Cool Hand Luke” — mesh perfectly with the song’s old-timey piano and jangly guitar for an evocative track that makes you feel the city mist on your face. “As the skirmish begins you look truly sanguine behind the shade,” he sings, later describing an increasingly desperate trip out of town in the titular vehicle. “Diesel tractor overturned and the redwoods, they burn,” he sings, before the damage turns personal: “The sight of you fell me.”
All through, the Brooklyn-based quintet– Loss-Eaton, Matthew Sklar, Ivan DeYoung-Dominguez, Gregg Tallent and Curtis Brewer — seems to be having the time of their lives, and why wouldn’t they? Sidelined for a while when Loss-Eaton was faced with heart surgery (he’s fine now), they’re clearly relishing their dive into an expanded repertoire. You’ll want to dive in yourself.