It’s lead guitarist Jason Willis’s awesomely meandering — yet still relentlessly driving — and somehow downhome riff that does it, honestly. This review almost feels like a cheat, on my part, because Buxton’s been playing A-side “Feathers” live for a little while now, and from almost the first second I heard it, it’s been locked away in my brain, popping up at random times and making me go, “oh, yeah; that’s right…” with a big grin on my face. I swear to God, I’ve heard it in my dreams, for crying out loud. If there’s an award for Best Hooky Riff of the Year, these guys should be in the running.
The song itself starts off loose and rehearsal-esque, like the orchestra tuning up before the play starts, but it quickly coalesces into a tight, focused lockstep countrified rock rhythm. Frontman Sergio Trevino sings in his backwoodsy-but-indie warble/yodel, and I realize that the longer I listen the Buxton guys, the less important it becomes to play spot-the-influence — sure, Trevino’s voice and delivery still sounds somewhat like a mutual cousin of Conor Oberst and Will Sheff, but more than that, it sounds like, well, him.
Plus, there’s the gentle, affirming pledge at the heart of the song, which is something I can’t help but like; “Feathers” comes off almost as a celebration of the band’s shared youth in LaPorte, TX, name-checking neighborhoods and towns nearby. It’s like an oath of loyalty and friendship not just to a person, but to a specific place and time, Trevino swearing he’ll hold onto that feeling, that love, no matter what. My goofy grin just keeps getting wider and wider…
B-side “Flint,” sadly, I find myself a lot more ambivalent about. It lopes along just fine from the start, but the pieces just don’t seem to fit as well together, at least not at the beginning; the guitars here come off more noodly than anything, and the horns are cool but a little weird when they (unconsciously, I’m guessing) sound like the Sesame Street theme song.
Things get a whole lot better when the song collapses into a slo-mo explosion of psych-country — the guitars echo and roar distantly, Trevino’s low-key melodies get some weight from the shouted background vocals, and the whole thing feels like it’s about to all come crashing to a shuddering, quaking end. Which, to my mind, fits the song much more aptly than the more out-and-out country-pop stuff.
Of course, any criticisms on my part of the second track should probably be tempered by the fact that the first sets the bar do damn high it’s an Olympic feat to get over it, so keep that in mind. Runner-up still ain’t bad when first place is fucking incredible, right?