I'd love to be able to say I'm a globe trotter but the fact of the matter is that, while I have switched up locales on more than a few occasions in the past few years, my movement has been limited to a much smaller scale than "globe trotting". What I am is a "Midwest trotter". I started out in Detroit, I came to Chicago, I went to Cincinnati, and during what was supposed to be a brief visit back to Detroit to visit family, I came to realize that there was a big hole in my heart shaped suspiciously like the Motor City's skyline. Regardless, however, I consider my home not to be Detroit, or the greater metro area, but rather the entire Midwest. Thinking of any one of the cities I called my home brings a figurative nostalgic tear to my eye and the fact that every single city I dwelled in had a vibrant and phenomenal local scene just makes my various homesteads all the more special.
The greater Midwest's local scene is something I hope to start tackling on a bigger scale starting next month, but for now, let's talk about Cincinnati. Never in my life have I encountered a city with such a focus on art and local duo done good Bad Veins have become something of Cincinnati staples in the past year, since the release of their seductive and fuzzy debut album, a disc that perched dang close to the top of my favorite records of 2009 list due to the fact that it combine pop hooks and a soft garage rock distortion with indie sensibilities and live quirks galore.
As it has been but a year since Bad Veins' last release, the fact that the fellas are already putting forth another effort might seem shocking or even rushed but the fact of the matter is that The Outliers EP is composed of merely four songs and two of those tracks, fan favorite "Fake Baby" and the folksy "Blanket", were discarded from the bands debut LP fairly last minute.
If you're looking for songs akin to those indie dance tracks that peppered the band's self-titled LP, you'll be out of luck. There's no seductive songs here that beg for you to break a sweat whilst listening to them, ala "Dryout" or new single "Falling Tide" (Why is a song off the EP not the single? Or why is "Falling Tide" not included on the EP as an extra promotional push? Good questions, both.). Instead, what you'll hear here is a subdued version of Bad Veins, perhaps even a world weary one. The band has, after all, been touring nearly nonstop with everyone from We Were Promised Jetpacks to Thrice since the release of their album, and anyone can understand how that would take a toll on lead singer Benjamin Davis, a fact that he seems to tackle in closing track "Good People".
Let me get something straight: I don't think Outliers is bad at all. In fact, I think it's quite good and the strength of it, to be honest, took me by surprise. But my problem with the EP lies with the fact that at it's core, what it is is a very good start for a wonderful, folk-tinged album. As an EP, it doesn't seem comprehensive. Something's missing. In my opinion, an extra track would have done wonders to round out the band's latest effort. While something along the lines of "Gold And Warm" would have seemed too cheery amongst the four morose tracks featured here, a song similar to a more subdued version of debut LP opener "Found" would have been right in place.
At the end of the day, Bad Veins is one of the midwest's most talented bands, regardless. They're comprised of one of the most passionate and energetic drummers I've ever seen and Davis is a talented composer and singer to say the least. After seeing Davis play a number of solo shows, I can attest to the fact that the slight distortion used on his voice is not to mask any weakness but instead is a deliberate affect used by Davis to suit the songs. Without the stage tricks that Bad Veins is gaining notoriety for, Davis could be a great folk musician, and a number of moments on Outliers showcase just that.
Outliers might seem incomplete as a whole but it's still an incredible effort, albeit too short of one. The worst part about it, by far, is the fact that the world will have to wait an unknown period of time before seeing wether the catchiness of the debut was a fluke and if the band will go in a direction like that which they've begun to map out with Outliers. Regardless, at the end of the day, I'm just happy to have that sweet studio version of "Fake Baby".