The Ex-Optimists, “Nitemare City”/“February”
I’m honestly kicking myself now for not listening to this sooner. College Station band The Ex-Optimists have been on repeat in my headphones for a while now, drowning me in a turbulent squall of Sonic Youth guitars, driving ’90s indie-drone-rock melodies, and hazy, softspoken vocals, and I’m enjoying the hell out of it.
On “Nitemare City,” the guitars are watery and sharp-edged in equal measure, drifting around you like psychically-controlled knives that periodically dart in to gouge out a chunk of your flesh. In the meantime, frontman Kelly Minnis serenely murmurs and croons like he’s already lost in the swirling murk; that is, until the whole damn thing explodes in a ball of fury partway through before coalescing back into its more stable previous state. The closest thing I can come up with is Houston’s own Muhammad Ali, except that this quartet sounds like they’re fueled less by beer and more by green, leafy substances.
Then there’s B-side “February,” which dives sideways into nearly Dinosaur Jr., quick-stepping along through an insanely-catchy melody while the overfuzzed guitars set fire to the scenery. Occasionally feels like I’m listening to a rougher-edged Silversun Pickups — there’s definitely a hazy, shoegaze quality to it, beneath the out-and-out noise.
There’re two extra B-sides if you get the 7″, but sadly, I haven’t heard ‘em, so you’re on your own there. Even still, though, it’s more than worth it to fall headfirst into a deep, muddy, warm pool of nostalgia-inducing, awesomely messy indie-rock like you (well, I) used to listen to when you were a kid.