There are short seasons during which I become jaded with music. It is a horrible thing for a writer to admit, but during these seemingly endless weeks of Tennessee downpours and sinusitis, the albums in my car have run their course, much like a short and hopeful spring; I find myself reaching for the same 1999 MSG Dylan concert for the guaranteed happiness it will provide, rather than trying my hand at something new and upcoming. Such is the nature of summertime.
Recently, however, I tuned into Lightning 100 during a 21st Avenue traffic jam, and a song caught my attention in a way that I haven’t experienced since the onset of this musical dry spell. Its sound referenced the tight compositions of progressive classic rock, with a haunting cleanliness I liken to the first time I heard My Morning Jacket’s “Nashville to Kentucky.” The conversation between guitars incited a hallow sensuality, that kind of cathartic turnaround that is mastered by well-orchestrated dips into a minor scale.
The song was “Last Crash Landing” by new local band Blank Range, and it has become the beginning of my ascent back into Nashville’s burgeoning music scene.
Blank Range released their EP “Phase II” on April 16, featuring six masterfully crafted songs. The first track, “Ziggy Coyote,” plays on the balance between raw vocals and instrumental effects; it samples the band’s musical prowess while remaining true to classic rock progressions. Next comes “Roommate’s Girlfriend,” a song that possesses those subtly upbeat harmonies that accompany a convoluted subject matter, making it the perfect light-hearted summertime anthem.
For me, Blank Range waits until “Same Sun” to turn my intrigue into a solidified love for their sound. Think back to the first time you heard Wilco’s “Sky Blue Sky.” Then think further past that, to the person that first introduced you to the early days of The Velvet Underground, circa 1967 and the production of “Heroin.” It might be a grandiose statement, but from “Same Sun” onwards, Blank Range picks up on the strains of the avant-garde expertise of these artists, creating homage to the roots of alternative rock and psychedelic experimentation.
The band proves that there is longevity in this certain kind of sound; most summers, I listen to Lou Reed’s “Perfect Day” at least once a day, (disassociating from its drug allegory, of course). By midday, no matter where my current location, Wilco’s “Hate it Here” stands as the first song on my afternoon soundtrack. So far this summer, Blank Range’s “Down From The Mountain” has become that coffee and cigarette morning anthem for me; they croon over a guitar that harks back to the origins of alternative folk and the basement noise that underscores easy lyrics: “You learned to write; we learned to drink.”
I was first intrigued by Blank Range because they incited a nerve-ending reaction in me; “Last Crash Landing” produced that very organic compulsion that happens when you genuinely love something. There is no overt analysis of chord progression or measured time; its sound just felt right to my senses. Perhaps it was in the juxtaposition of lyrics about discount cigarettes, crash landings, and someone feeling proud of another person, but for the first time in awhile, a song made me cry. Right there, on 21st avenue, between the sundress-sprinkled streets and PhD students. That was the best I’d felt in awhile.