Pop Addict: Peter Wolf Crier’s Garden of Arms

Every Thursday, Pop Addict presents infectious tunes from contemporary musicians across indie rock, pop, folk, electronica, and more.

Peter Wolf Crier: Garden of ArmsPeter Wolf CrierGarden of Arms (Jagjaguwar, 9/6/11)

Peter Wolf Crier: “Settling It Off”

[audio:http://alarm-magazine.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/09/Peter-Wolf-Crier-Settling-It-Off.mp3|titles=Peter Wolf Crier: “Settling It Off”]

There are enough two-pieces nowadays that people understand the formula can work without a full backing band — and work well. When Peter Wolf Crier, the two-man collaboration between Peter Pisano and Brian Moen, released alt-folk gem Inter-Be in 2010, it seemed to have a good handle on what it was doing. An acoustic-driven approach, sprinkled with sporadic percussion and piano, established Peter Wolf Crier as one of the year’s best-kept secrets.

But that was the problem; the band’s sound was so subdued that it often went unnoticed, and the band struggled to put its stamp on the indie-folk scene. Peter Wolf Crier ultimately had two options for its next release: create another Inter-Be-esque album and risk floundering again, or expand and experiment. Though it stands to reason that either direction may have proven fruitful, there’s no denying that Garden of Arms is a product of the second option.

Album opener “Right Away” sets the mood for the rest of the album by showcasing the band’s new-found confidence. Gone is the sparse, subdued alt-folk. Instead, a swath of experimental sounds — scattered and frenetic drumming, reversed drones, sporadic percussion, voice loops — take the spotlight on a sophomore album that few fans saw coming.

“Krishnamurti” and “Hard Heart” start out with straight-up rock riffs on an electric guitar, accentuated by layered, pulsing drumming. The simple, hook-laden beat and melody in standout track “Settling It Off”’ could serve as a sample in any hip-hop song. “Wheel” features music on reversed tape and droned-out vocal loops. “Cut a Hand” pairs a slowed-down, melancholic guitar melody with a sped-up, relentless drumbeat. And that’s only a small taste of what Peter Wolf Crier has cooked up on Garden of Arms. Each song is different from the last, but the band ties the random threads together thanks to an established alt-folk sensibility and sound songwriting tactics.

And though Garden of Arms is an obvious departure from Inter-Be, Peter Wolf Crier solidly maintains certain aspects present on its debut. The heartfelt songwriting is still there, as is the knack for writing catchy yet unpredictable arrangements and intriguing lyrics. Though Inter-Be did not get the respect it deserved, Garden of Arms’ confidence and experimentation is sure to put Peter Wolf Crier on the map. If Inter-Be was the sound of a new, young band finding its footing, then Garden of Arms is the sound of a band finding its stride. And that, at the very least, is a step in the right direction.

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