Typically, a split 7” release by two Austin-based, still-considered “local” groups (as diminutive as that term may be) would be nothing noteworthy, nothing extraordinary. Pondering what No Play Music’s inaugural release of WAIT/WHITE means to indie rock music at large is the cognitive equivalent of kicking up dust in the desert. All across the country, there are bands putting out all kinds of split 7” releases, singles, EPs, and full albums. So why care about this one?
First, dear reader, you should know that much like Portland and Brooklyn, the music community also has their eye on Austin. Anything that shows up on the UV meter in this town quite assuredly finds its way along the grapevine to the indie heads of state. The release of WAIT/WHITE was something of a scene definer. Both the Marmalakes and the Sour Notes have been playing in relatively the same form since 2008. Their music, while it has undergone an evolution, still possesses its relative charm. As individuals, they’re all well known throughout town and they’ve got some really talented friends (i.e. supporting acts SPEAK, Buxton Follow the Bird, and more).
The Sour Notes have arrived here by hard work. They’ve put out 4 full-length releases and three 7-inch vinyl albums to date, excluding WAIT/WHITE. They’ve played incessantly both in town and abroad and their music is beloved by the critics for its dreamy, gauzy approach to indie rock. Their muses are as diverse as they are scattered, and that bodes well for a band with a depth of catalogue that most groups dream about. They shift between moments of cloudy psych and lucid moment of indie-twee clarity, all anchored by the airy vocals of Jared Boulanger along with musicians Amarah Ulghani, Rene Chavez, and Justin Selman.
Their contribution to the split is the horn-bolstered “Two Hands Wait”. It begins with a rambunctious intro then glissades into a churning psych jam, with the vocal hook, “one trouble goes where two hands wait for it.” At their best, the Sour Notes draw an even line between being artsy and poetic indie-pop and all out rock. “Two Hands Wait” is as studied an approach as the Sour Notes have offered on any of their previous releases.
The Marmalakes stray on the folk-ier side of things, with their love affair for quietly keen, youthful, suburban lyricism sung in harmony. But as of late, the trio of Chase Weinacht, Max Colonna, and Josh Halpern have been moving into sterner territory. 2010’s Wonder Winds was an enchanting affair of subtle folk-driven song craft. Last November’s Even Clothed displayed a wider influence of rock while still retaining their attentive lyrics and dynamic flexibility. With “White Height”, the Marmalakes have forsaken their acoustic guitars and jazz chords for electrics and power chords. Their lyrics are still prominent, but their instrumentation does a bit more talking with bouncy, fittingly goofy interludes and bridges while still making room for their collective release on the harmonized chorus of “new white height”.
With the release of WAIT/WHITE the Marmalakes and the Sour Notes have solidified their respective posts as Austin’s scene kings, a beacon of indie rock light upon which the national critics’ circles and labels will soon flock to, and snatch away. This is something beautiful for the time being – that these two bands play so regularly and are so deeply embedded in this town – but given the talent and ability to sway an audience both on record and in performance, it seems that WAIT/WHITE could be prelude to a fond farewell. As the Marmalakes croon at the end of “White Height”: “we’re no longer in our city for one night.”