Second Lovers, Wishers, Dreamers & Liars

 Second Lovers, Wishers, Dreamers & Liars

These days, it’s getting hard to throw a rock in this city without hitting a roots-rock/indie-folk-country band, and while it’s true that a large number of ’em are good, it can be tempting to get jaded and cynical each time a new one comes along. After listening (repeatedly) to Second Lovers’ debut full-length, Wishers, Dreamers & Liars, however, I sincerely hope that more-of-the-same familiarity doesn’t make people pass this band by, because that’d be a sad, stupid mistake.

I think a large part of why Wishers works so damn well, I have to say, comes down to singer/guitarist Nico Morales, who bitterly growls his way through song after song like he never cracks a smile (and going by the promo photos I’ve seen, that may actually be the case). The man’s got some major demons to deal with, it seems, and Wishers feels like his own way of taking them on.

It helps, of course, that he’s got a surprisingly husky, rough-edged, road-worn voice for somebody so young. There’s a resemblance to icon Steve Earle, believe it or not, particularly on plaintive opening track “Whiskey Woman,” with its rumbling, train’s-a-comin’ rhythm and plaintive violin (or is that technically a fiddle, since it’s a roots-rock song? No clue…). There’s a cool, Son Volt-esque phrasing to the track, too, something that gives all of the album an easy, gentle swing.

I don’t mean to downplay the rest of the band, mind you. They’re all very, very talented musicians, the kind that know how to step back and play the part they need to play, rather than showboating, and it works wonderfully. In particular, violinist/singer Ashley Parker’s vocals serve as a great, great foil to Morales, particularly on “Take You Home,” which is sweet and warm and sees Parker and Morales trade vocals like a less-intense Finnegan.

The song almost swipes the lead-in melody from R.E.M.’s “Losing My Religion,” and really, that’s pretty apt, since this song reminds me less of contemporary roots-rock and more of homespun Athens college rock from the mid-’80s, back before anybody really gave much thought to giving that whole “alt-country” thing a name. It’s partly due to Parker’s somber, uninflected (yet beautiful) voice, which has kind of an everywoman quality to it and brings to mind Jenny Lewis or Rachel Warren of Palomar. I find myself wishing to be able to hear her violin more prominently, too, but honestly, if I did it’d probably be too much; as it stands, it’s great to be able to catch enough of it to love it and want more.

“Take You Home”‘s an anomaly, really, set in the midst of a set of solidly rootsy, folk-countryish tunes. There’s “Moonshine Hill,” jangly and rough-edged and melancholy, the kind of song that’s perfect for quiet nights alone at the bar and is one of the album’s absolute highlights, and “By The River,” which is a quiet and knocked-down bit of folk, just Nicolas Morales and his guitar in a threadbare, echoing room. “Gunslinger,” for its part, is full-on punkified country-rawk, blazing on past with blues-metal guitars carving a deep gouge out of a thundering, stampeding rhythm.

Throughout, there’s a downtrodden, end-of-the-affair vibe to the band’s sound, with only a few glimmers of happiness or devil-may-care hope peeking through, like in the jaunty, friendly “I’m Your Huckleberry” or in “Daydreamer,” which is insistent and honest and lovestruck, barreling through the night to be with somebody, consequences be damned. It’s right back to the downbeat side after, though, with “Coals & Pearls,” where Morales is seemingly admonishing his would-be lover not to visit his grave once he’s died and not to feel bad because he passed on waiting for them.

My favorite tracks, though, are two of the bleakest. First, there’s “Tired Man,” which is the sound of a man who’s given up, who’s gone past the point of no return and just wants to be done with the relationship. It’s haunting and beautiful and so full of exhausted, weary pain it practically bleeds out the speakers.

Then there’s “Last Call,” which is both the last song on the album and the end of a long-suffering (seven-year?) love, and which Morales likens to last call at a dingy bar. It’s the notice you get that it’s beyond time to be gone, and while that’s not a good thing for the album, it makes sense for the end of a relationship. The bitterness in Morales’s voice as he declares “All that was you / has become bad news” is made even more poignant by the feeling of resignation to it all.

Overall, Wishers, Dreamers & Liars is heartfelt and warm and intensely personal, but at the same time, it’s a breezy, unassuming listen, one that doesn’t intrude but instead sits back and lets you come ’round. The band’s members are well aware of what they can do, and they don’t give a damn about blowing the doors off unnecessarily. They know they’ve got you, either way.

[ Second Lovers are playing their album release show 7/13/12 at Fitzgerald’s, along with The Wheel Workers, The Baker Family, & The Blackwells.]
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Review by . Review posted Thursday, July 12th, 2012. Filed under Features, Reviews.

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10 Responses to “Second Lovers, Wishers, Dreamers & Liars

  1. SPACE CITY ROCK » Yr. Weekend, Pt. 1: Second Lovers + The Wheel Workers + Scott H. Biram + Cinderella + More on July 13th, 2012 at 4:57 pm

    […] Second Lovers (CD release)/The Wheel Workers/The Baker Family/The Blackwells @ Fitzgerald’s The top of the bill for me, at least, not least because I’ve been listening to Second Lovers‘ brand-new debut full-length, Wishers, Dreamers & Liars (for which tonight is the official release show), quite a bit this week and have quickly fallen for it, hard. It’s just this nonchalant, intensely downcast pile of roots-rock/folk songs about, well, the end of love, pretty much, and it’s flat-out great. Nico Morales & co. have truly, truly outdone themselves. Check out the full review over here. […]

  2. SPACE CITY ROCK » Yr. Weekend, Pt. 2: Sarah Jaffe + Benjamin Wesley + For The Community III + Electric Attitude + More on September 15th, 2012 at 3:51 pm

    […] For The Community Pt. III, featuring We Scare Coyotes, Second Lovers, Bury the Crown, Rapeworm, Messier, Female Demand, PAPAYA, Jon Black, Enloom, Juan Moncayo, B.C. Walk, Stress33, Devil Killing Moth, “Downer,” Jupiter Skyline, Nikkhoo, No Reply, Samwell, Abinader, Super Robot Party, Conscious R.A.V.E., The Blackwells, Through Everlast, FLCON FCKER, Josiah Gabriel, Nine Minutes, & Harold Borup @ The Compound (2305 Wheeler; 12:30PM, free!) This one seriously crept up on me — I hadn’t heard a thing about it ’til yesterday. I’m honestly not sure what the “For The Community” part means, but it’s a free festival that includes a good dozen excellent bands, folks like Super Robot Party, Harold Borup, FLCON FCKER, Devil Killing Moth, surprisingly great rapper Jon Black, mind-blowingly heavy noise-rock duo Female Demand, and downcast roots-folk-popsters Second Lovers (whose recent full-length, Wishers, Dreamers & Liars, we reviewed a couple of months ago, over here). […]

  3. SPACE CITY ROCK » Yr. Weekend, Pt. 2: Knights of the Fire Kingdom + Something Wicked + Bummerfest 2 + Something Fierce + More on October 27th, 2012 at 12:24 am

    […] that band of downcast, murky, melancholy roots-popsters who came out with the truly excellent Wishers, Dreamers & Liars earlier this year — been wanting to see those folks — plus Mikey & The Drags, […]

  4. SPACE CITY ROCK » The Eastern Sea Gets All Christmas-y, Tonight at Fitz on December 10th, 2012 at 5:18 pm

    […] whom I’ve raved several times recently, particularly with regards to their stellar album Wishers, Dreamers & Liars, which is on my personal short-list of Best Albums of 2012 (along with TES’s Plague, come to […]

  5. SPACE CITY ROCK » Free Music Time: Second Lovers, Adam Bricks, Shellee Coley, & Linus Pauling Quartet Want to Give You Songs on December 22nd, 2012 at 12:29 am

    […] grim the whole thing sounds, while still remaining laidback and friendly. Check out the full review here, or just listen to it for yourself, dammit (and then download it, […]

  6. SPACE CITY ROCK » Yr. Weekend, Pt. 1: Second Lovers + Black Mountain + Co-Pilot + My Jerusalem + Sevendust + Canconier + Crawfish Fest + More on April 26th, 2013 at 5:07 pm

    […] is freaking great; it’s got all the same components as the band’s previous full-length, Wishers, Dreamers & Liars, but there’s a hopefulness to the songs that wasn’t there before. It’s got a […]

  7. SPACE CITY ROCK » Yr. Weekend, Pt. 1: Soundgarden + The Black Angels + Black Pistol Fire + Second Lovers + Paris Falls + Left Of The Dial + The Ancient Gods + More on May 24th, 2013 at 8:30 pm

    […] each show, it seems like; I was already a fan with their debut release, the melancholy-yet-sweet Wishers, Dreamers & Liars, but they’ve apparently been honing their sound recently, with brand-new EP New Mexico seeing […]

  8. SPACE CITY ROCK » Video Time: Second Lovers + Featherface + Night Drive on October 18th, 2013 at 4:12 pm

    […] this band just keeps getting better and better. I loved 2012′s Wishers, Dreamers & Liars, no doubt, but having now heard the band’s about-to-be-released EP, New Mexico, I’m […]

  9. SPACE CITY ROCK » Yr. Weekend, Pt. 1: Second Lovers + Invincible Czars + The Wheel Workers + Ishi + Star Trek + Catch Fever + Hub City Stompers + More on July 18th, 2014 at 8:32 pm

    […] moment. They’ve revved up the jangly, depressive roots-folk displayed on their debut album, Wishers, Dreamers & Liars, and last year’s two-song EP/7″/whatever, New Mexico, is joyous and wide-smiling and […]

  10. SPACE CITY ROCK » Tonight: Second Lovers Hit the House of Blues (And So Should You) on May 1st, 2015 at 3:38 pm

    […] and I don’t just mean locally. They grabbed hold of me pretty solidly with 2012’s Wishers, Dreamers & Liars, with Nico Morales‘ melancholy, sharp-edged vocals and some excellent duets with […]

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