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Cheers to Our Toast, The Sandwitches' last round

Posted by Kells, June 29, 2015 10:22pm | Post a Comment
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lovely photo of The Sandwitches by Rachel Walther

It's been many moons since we've been accorded a fresh platter from San Francisco trio The Sandwitches, and this latest release courtesy of Empty Cellar Records, looks to be their last. Since 2008, bandmates Grace Cooper, Heidi Alexander, and Roxy Brodeur have consistently honed a distinct sound that is, simply put, a little bit old-time country and a little bit roadside oddities rock 'n' roll. Their ability to seamlessly blend twisted yet whimsical girl group harmonies with unfiltered, mood-infused heavy Americana has progressed splendidly with each release, making Our Toast, their third LP, arguably their finest effort to date.
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Before you even get your ears on it, Our Toast is a thing of beauty. Housed in very fine packaging adorned with gold leaf lettering and a cover tribute to unofficial 4th member James Finch (painted by Deirdre White), the record itself (on oxblood wax if you're lucky) is sheathed by a printed inner sleeve featuring lyrics on one side (lyrics, people!) and a sad clown band photo epitaph on the other–a testament to the posthumous-ish work within. That said, there is a twinging finality vibe to this record that moves beyond the commemorative qualities of the tangible presentation. It's a feeling that lends suspicion to the pulse of each song like an omen or memento mori. And yet, regardless of any time the Sandwitches' sound has been described as "haunting", there is nothing ghostly about this energy at all. It's as if seven or eight of these nine songs are contending for the ultimate setting in sequencing crown: the last cut on side B, the swan song's swan song seat.

All notions of end themes aside, the album opens on a delightfully lighthearted note with "Sunny Side" waltzing out ahead of the clouds, multiple pianos dancing upright like a tinkling, saloon-corner homage of sorts to the Carter Family's popular porch rocker. From there, however, the mantle descends with "Play It Again Dick", a barometrical indicator of the storm-colored album to come what with its post-Westworld apocalyptic guitar groans grazing the otherwise rhythmic swagger of strums plodding towards what sounds like some kind of after hours personal reckoning, the tumultuous timbre of Grace's insistent vocals coaxing listeners down to the floorboards. The languid tones continue with the tentative stop, drop, and slow-rolling drowse of "Sleeping Practice" which eventually rises to cooing crescendo to converge with more sinister threads of "Dead Prudence", a sonic materialization lolling so cozily in its own madness that when the song plunges into a Badalamentian boiling pool midway through, visions of untold narratives relevant to David Lynch's Fire Walk With Me come immediately to mind.

But this collection isn't entirely lurking between shadows. Buried on side two, locked between the cool, slithering "Personal Hell" and the tenderhearted cadences of "Nothing But Love", lies the album's only barn shaker, "Wickerman Mabmo"–an uptempo, bass-walkin' hoedown shuffle that bucks up the country and western twang for which the Sandwitches are partially known to rousing new heights. Aside from being a standout track, the titular film reference also kind of begs the question: Cage or Woodward? (Either way, someone will be burned.) Still, where previous albums have led listeners along for garden dalliances and seaside vacationing, Our Toast seems slanted with a bittersweet bouquet of intimate inward gazes, forgoing escapist motifs for hypnotic rumination, but not without a hearty dose of charm (as suggested by the ass-cat flower vase crammed to the limit with fuzzy blooms depicted on the album's back cover).

One could only imagine how these songs would unfold in a live setting, and perhaps there will be a show (a newsflash of sorts popped up on the radar hinting at the potential for an August happening). At the very least we can hope for another bill featuring the Sandwitches à la carte as all three ladies continue with their solo efforts. Nevertheless, while the fact remains that the Sandwitches have gone their separate ways, and more's the pity, they've thankfully left behind one final little portal into their weird, wyrd world unhinged for the rest of us to crawl into for a spell, anytime the mood swings.

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