I’ve had the chance to listen to Upright Behavior and I find it very compelling. When you hear the ten tracks, it becomes more understandable why the band listed their musical genre as “surprise” on their Facebook page. It’s music that seems to defy easy categorization; brief glimmers of familiarity fade before you can fully elucidate the connections. That was my experience, at least. But it’s not as if I was trying to “solve” their sound; I was quickly engulfed by the mystery and pleasure of the experience and let myself ride the wave wherever it would take me.
This is definitely an album that takes you places. I frequently felt as if I was listening to the score of an unseen film, or perhaps more likely a film in the hearts and minds of the band members. Songs unfold and blossom and shift. Just when you think you might know where it’s headed, it changes. Opening track “Above My Ground” feels like a drastically different song if you compare the first minute or so to the last one, but the beautiful thing is you don’t realize that while it’s happening. The very beginning reminded me of “When You Wish Upon a Star.” Then there’s that perfect groove of drums. The guitars punctuate the intriguing melody. Eventually there are layers of voices and the sound seems to deconstruct itself. Yet it never feels unnatural moving from point A to B to C, and this holds true for the other nine songs, both within and between them.
The other epic songs are “The Globe” and “Washington State is Important,” which pack in more secrets and surprises than I could fully grasp thus far. I like how the former gives way to an instrumental passage and then accelerates during the “Millionaires don’t breathe the same as you and me” part. The latter revisits its early verses with at a faster tempo, which had the effect of making me feel the music undermines the song’s narrator. In turn, this unlocked the thought that maybe all these compositions are so intricate as a way to reflect the tenuous nature of mood and identity: how we can lie to ourselves, or block out pain, or see an experience as something both positive and negative simultaneously, or have a sense of inner joy and peace that doesn’t seem connected to any tangible thing.
For instance, “Dying Day” mentions getting closer to a dying day and asks “What am I supposed to do about it?” It could be a desperate plea for an answer, a note of empowerment, or a shrug. And on “Fine,” is “I’ll be fine” a fact or an attempt to convince the self? It’s a little like how the album artwork is a tree and a face. To me this album seems to also be about connection to things beyond yourself and all the ensuring allures and challenges of that. “Girl” is a song that feels more about a person, as is “Maria” and “X-Ray Machine,” and then “Under the Yard” made me think about our place in nature.
Musically, the album gives voice to these themes through its richness and variance in textures. I suppose it’s a rock band with guitar, bass, and drums, but it feels like so much more than that. While I don’t think it’s exact, I get a similar sense of using the guitar in bold ways like St. Vincent and crafting intricate soundscapes that mix grace and noise like Grizzly Bear when I listen to Landlady. And I don’t feel like the band would be out of place on a bill with other artists who have an artistic and even psychedelic tinge to their humanist explorations like the Flaming Lips or Animal Collective. But they mostly just feel like Landlady, and I’m sure they will continue to evolve and excite.
Go check them out tonight, but if you can’t, the album is available for sale and streaming here. It’s also streaming on Pitchfork Advance. Check out the band’s recent appearance on BreakThru Radio below. Oh, and I asked keyboardist/vocalist Adam Schatz what he loves about Greenpoint, and he said, “I love Peter Pan Donuts though. The old fashioned especially. It can’t be beat.”