Hovering, the debut album from San Francisco’s Eternal Drag, is all about harmony. From the twin guitar interplay which aims for the laid back complexity of the Clientele or Real Estate, to the constantly intertwined voices of Logan Kroeber and Alexis Harper, which recall a dazed version of Gram Parsons & Emmylou Harris, each idea clicks into a machinery of interlocking melodic parts. Even the lyrics strive for harmony as they create anti-hangover anthems from stories of tuning one’s life from sour to sweet.
The songs and stories are a decade plus in the making, with Kroeber slowly adding details to the tunes between touring and recording as the drummer for the Dodos. The influence of his main gig might not seem immediately apparent in his side project, but it can be found in the subtle syncopations that percolate underneath Hovering’s accessible psych-pop riffs. Another link between projects is the presence of Dodos engineers Jay and Ian Pellicci, whose warmly distorted production brings to mind Broadcast at their most direct, Papercuts, or early My Morning Jacket.
The album is glued together by the Pelliccis’ sonic choices along with an understated country shuffle and twang that pops up throughout, exemplified on the instrumental chorus of “Games” or the Harper-penned “Wild Ego.” All sounds heard on the album were played by Kroeber except for Harper’s stunning vocals, on loan from her own bands, Al Harper and Tony Jay. Her contributions might shine brightest on “Another Bottle,” where her harmonies multiply and twist around overdriven guitar leads as the lyrics describe a moment of urgent reflection after a night of partying.
Although many songs on the album touch on difficult subjects—substance abuse, relationship turmoil, and friends gone too soon (the death of Kroeber’s childhood friend Noel Hamilton on the cathartic “Twisting Your Own,” the untimely passing of Dodos tour mate Chris Reimer on the propulsive “Down The Face”)—each remembrance turns transformative through a joyful look backward or excited look forward from the moments of loss.
This optimism culminates on the final track on the album, “Stitching Up The City,” where the aftermath of a bloody fight in a San Francisco taqueria conjures an image of The City as a benevolent organism. Layers of elegant guitar, keyboard and pedal steel uphold the extended metaphor, with ambulances and paramedics playing the role of white blood cells, cleaning up and healing a metropolis that can sometimes feel like it’s out to get you—until you reach out for its help.
Erin Dage, Bay Bridged
There’s a new band in town: Eternal Drag. Made up of members from San Francisco indie pop standards such as The Dodos and Social Studies as well as lo-fi band White Fence, the group has an impressive lineage right from the get-go. .
The band is delightfully subdued in nature with dreamy vocals and subtle instrumentation to match. This month, Eternal Drag released two songs on their newly-established Bandcamp. “Another Bottle” is a sleepy track with vocals and lyrics reminiscent of Harvest-era Neil Young. The other track, “Hovering,” is laden with vocal harmonizing and constant, droning guitar work. You can listen here to the few tracks Eternal Drag has so graciously provided and see them Saturday night at the Hemlock Tavern, where they’ll be performing their first show.