There are more bands that take influence from Animal Collective then there are songs by the experimental group. Some of these bands prosper and their inspiration becomes a simple tip of the hat. Other bands can’t seem to fit their inspiration in with their own sound and become a mere imitation. Gauntlet Hair falls somewhere in between these two extremes.
Andy R. and Craig Nice are the two musicians behind Gauntlet Hair. They released a few tracks last year, including a 7” through the music blog Gorilla vs. Bear. Their self-titled debut album is being released through Dead Oceans, a label whose clientele include the The Tallest Man On Earth, Phosphorescent and Akron/Family. Coming from a label with such talented musicians, I expected great things from Gauntlet Hair.
When I first heard Gauntlet Hair on a podcast, I was intrigued. I thought that “Top Bunk” was a great combination of reverb-soaked vocals, jangly guitar reminiscent of shoegaze, samples of handclaps and a simple rhythm to keep the track steady. Sadly, this combination turned into a formula for the duo’s debut. Every song on the album features reverb-soaked vocals, jangly guitar and a simple rhythm. The only things that seem to change in the formula are the lyrics and the samples.
The formula works for the first couple of songs, but grows old after that. The guitar and rhythm section grow stale. The vocals are incomprehensible and are drowned out in all the reverb. I wish I could say that the lyrics reached me on a deep level, but I couldn’t understand more than a few words per track, let alone an entire exchange of verse-chorus-verse. And by the third song the handclaps had become run of the mill. By the time the 35-minute album ended, I was left feeling like I had only heard one song.
Regardless of the duo’s all-too-noticeable nod to groups like Animal Collective, they’re capable musicians who are able to craft odd, yet catchy pop songs. There’s a retro feel to the album, most notably heard in the Andy R.’s guitar and Nice’s sampling. However, I feel that they draw too much influence from past successes in music and aren’t able to mesh that with their sound. They need to find their identity, and they’re going to have to move forward and progress even further as a group if they want to move beyond being a flavor of the month.