Local alt-pop trio Shod My Feet is back — in a big way. Not only has the band (Emily Keebler on vocals/keys/guitar/clarinet, Sherman Hoover on bass/backup vocals/keys and Andrew Ross on percussion/backup vocals) returned from a baby-having/getting married hiatus, but they’ve recorded their first full-length, Orange.
The 10-track LP starts with the slow, contemplative (and, at turns, tongue-in-cheek) “Fake Break Up.” It’s a solid song, but the album’s real surprises come later. Like the spastic hand claps (or, perhaps, foot stomps?) that give way to perfectly-timed drums at the beginning of “Poor Boy,” and the way Keebler’s vocal on that songs hints at Grace Slick.
Keebler actually has a number of singing voices. Her vocal is suited for jazzy low-lit lounge fare, but she also has the ability to move effortlessly from serious and sultry to theatrical and character-driven. “In Focus,” with its long, cool descending scales and its glossy percussion, is more sultry/serious. But “Happy Song,” (which begins, “This is a song about being sad / I write songs about the troubles I have”) ambles and sways. It edges against cutsey. It would make sense with a ukulele. On a She and Him record — that’s a good thing. Songs with a built-in wink serve a purpose: as the song’s title suggests, they make us happy.
“Happy Song” has shades of a comedic role in Keebler’s voice, but it’s the album’s title track that really introduces Shod My Feet’s ability to pair earnest musicianship with a sense of whimsy. This song mixes quirky lyrics and Keebler’s ambitious range that pushes its own boundaries to end in a soprano squeak. It’s an energetic (almost frantic) offering with a clever spoken word section around the one-minute mark.
The spoken word approach returns with the Laurie Anderson-esque “Intelligent Design.” That song is a smart sneak-attack of jazz percussion, a hum of keyboard baselines and the static-y spit of vocal, as industrial as it is edgy. Keebler’s quick-paced spoken sections recall the brainy antics of Alanis Morissette and Ani DiFranco, only with more smirk, more humor. It’s a winning concoction.
Orange also has plenty of intensity. “Alleghenies” swells in dark waves of intensity; “Down Where You Were” is a work of nocturnal poetry, dreamy and dense. Final track, “Serious,” however, is actually a return to the band’s trademark wink. Here, Keebler’s vocal unfurls along a roller coaster of oh-oh-oh-ohs and Cabaret song-stylings. Set to a simple acoustic guitar melody, it’s absolutely charming.