I’m not really sure when it happened, but at some point in the last 10 months, I forgot what it was like to hear Super Desserts for the first time. I’ve been to several of their shows and listened to Barefoot in the Disenchanted Forest countless times in the last year and at no point has my love for them faltered. But somewhere along the way, the drop-jawed astonishment–that “how is it possible that something like this actually exists?” sentiment–of the initial experience dissipated. And I’d had no idea I’d lost it until Sunday afternoon.
Soaked through from walking ten blocks in persistent rainfall and packed into a small independent record store with 75 other local music enthusiasts, I was treated to an unexpected reawakening. It was the release party for Super Desserts’ newest album Banjo Forever, a collection of soon-to-be classics and a handful of new versions of the songs I fell in love with. If you are familiar with the last album, you will recognize “Funeral” and “Jump Out of the Way” , as well as four others. Everything else here is new. New and wonderful.
“Gotta Lotta Sun” is vintage Super Desserts with prominent string accompaniment, a fun singable refrain, and a whistle chorus outro while “Falling Out of Fashion” (surprisingly) calls to mind a late 1990s Belle & Sebastian sing-along with handclaps and cantus firmus-like chordal accompaniment supporting jangly guitar strumming.
Then there is “Yr Heart” which, in one sense, is unlike many of the other songs on this album. Featuring the distinctive vocals of Eve Searls, it is more reminiscent, I think, of her work with Bird and Flower (just replace the handclaps with a drum machine, and there it is). As it stands, the track has that distinctive updated 60s sound that I (and really anyone with taste) can’t help but love.
For me, though, the highlight of Banjo Forever is “I Only Love You Because You Can Play Guitar”. And it ought to be required listening for every boy who has ever been a freshman in college. (And don’t even pretend you have no idea what I mean. I know you sat beneath a tree outside the girls’ dorm with your guitar, strumming the three chords you knew [G, C, D] and singing a sappy love song, probably John Mayer. We all did it.) With clever lyrics, a charming melody, and vocals of an unforced (almost naive) sweetness, it is equally reminiscent of She & Him and Pink Martini and has been stuck in my head for the last 48 hours.
I’m sure I would have loved Banjo Forever had it just appeared as a .zip file in my inbox one afternoon, but there is an added appreciation that has come along with my first experiencing two thirds of these songs (or all of them, if you include my first Super Desserts show) in a live setting, yet it is an experiential dimension I may have missed out on had it not been for the guy standing next to me Sunday afternoon. (Though I’ve forgotten his name since then,–it was John or Luke or something like that–I think it is safe to just call him Confetti Guy.) From what I gather, Confetti Guy knew some of the band members, but had never actually heard their music. I assume he had come to the show to be supportive of his friends, but it was easy to see (in fact, it would have been difficult not to see) that, with each subsequent song, he was growing increasingly enamored with Super Desserts’ unmistakable brand of folksy indie pop (or, perhaps more appropriately, “twee as folk”). And, in listening to his enthusiastic (an understatement) response to every song, I couldn’t help being transported back to a small bar with a maple tree growing out of the floor and through the ceiling (no, really), to a show I almost didn’t attend. It was then that I remembered what only the stunned look on my face could have conveyed that night in March 2009: that Super Desserts are a revelation not to be missed at any cost.*
If you are in Chicago and you want to experience Super Desserts firsthand, which you do (see above), they will be playing The Hideout on Thursday (28 January) and Cole’s (in the Logan Square area) on Saturday (30 January). In between, they will be somewhere up in Madison, WI. See their Facebook page for details.
*unless you or someone you know is/are a) dying or b) giving birth