Review: Bill DeMain – Extended Stay EP
Published on April 11th, 2012 | Jonny Abrams
As well as being one half of Nashville duo Swan Dive, Bill DeMain is also a respected music journalist. Sounds like Rocksucker’s kind of guy, and his debut solo EP Extended Stay naturally bears many a hallmark of a man well-versed in the ways of proper, classic songwriting.
Opener “Looking For a Place to Live” lulls you in with pretty acoustic fingerpicking, a soft percussive pulse and agreeably textured vocals that wisely keep their distance from the choppy waters of over-emoting. “I know how Columbus felt sailing round in circles / With his coffee in a cardboard cup and the Sunday classifieds” signal straight from the off that DeMain’s history with the written word has spilt nicely over into his lyricism.
“Out with the refugees / Dreaming of vacancies / For what seems eternities” he continues, illustrating the motif, while a keen eye for detail is evidenced with a well-executed psychedelic flourish of the closing line “it was just a dream”. It’s rural, gentle, sweetly melodic and polished without being remotely cloying, and there’s even a doleful cello intervention at one point. A strong start, then.
“St. Joe’s 75” comes across like a cross between “Little Deuce Coupe” and “Whippin’ Piccadilly”, boasting a superbly swinging melody in its chorus and a round of baritone ‘ba ba ba’s in the second verse that reinforce the early Beach Boys vibe; it’s playful but genuine, and there’s little to call it up on unless you happen to be a saxophobe (that’s not a typo).
“In Your Letter” immediately grabs your lyrical ear in a headlock with “Everything was lower case and cute / In your letter / I could feel your smile peaking through / In your letter”, a stately combination of piano and cello setting the stage for DeMain to display some jazzy showmanship through a sophisticated melody line delivered with total assuredness.
The cute fingerpicking of “Honeylove” takes a very effective sharp turn into a minor 7th before going on to flaunt a silly, “Maxwell’s Silver Hammer”-esque keyboard line, but “Common Love Song” does too well by its title, a pleasant but ultimately throwaway two minutes that segues barely noticed into adorable, almost Gershwin-like closer “Raggedy Man”, a dancing melody set to a plodding bounce that plays host to a lovely bit of call and response in its second verse.
Extended Stay is unlikely to turn your world upside down, but there’s more than enough potential on display here to suggest that a full-blown Bill DeMain album should be well worth checking out. Good stuff, if not quite great.
Rocksucker says: Three and a Half Quails out of Five!