I came up with a new genre, you can take it or leave it: "chill-out music." Music like Jack Johnson, The Shins, The Avett Brothers. One For The Team fits perfectly into this genre. This isn't to say that they sound like the aforementioned bands/singers, it's just that all their tracks have a certain quality about them that just makes you want to sit down and chill.
Their new EP, Build A Garden, is short and sweet. It provides four new tracks and four re-worked ones; all eight of them full of lush, harmonic, stripped-down melodies.
Garden is the perfect EP for an end-of-TV-episode montage, a rainy day, or a long, reflective car ride. The band uses simple melodies and hooks over light, softly strumming guitars. They chant the songs together, giving them a sing-a-long, campfire feel. While this gets a little old towards album's end, as standalone tracks, almost all eight of them work well, and as an album, for the most part it's a quality experience.
Opener "Questions And Panthers" is simply beautiful, the epitome of the type of music that One For The Team makes. It was re-recorded- it originated on thier full-length, an apparent "lo-fi gem" (says PopWreckoning, I'm not sure, this is my intro to the band). They continue this "group vocals and simple guitar melodies" trend with a re-recording of "Best Supporting Actor," with the brand-new "Best Supporting Actress" (reviewed in more detail HERE, a companion to "Actor," both the most dynamic and sunny of Team's tracks), and with "Cry," another simplistic stunner.
The titular track's intro sounds like a stripped-down Phoenix- imagine "Lisztomania" without synths. Lead singer Ian Anderson's voice builds over the top, and once again, the entire band kicks in with some gorgeous vocals. Complementing Anderson throughout the album is Grace Fiddler, a quality female vocalist who harmonically, softly chants behind the lead singer.
The EP does get repetitive. "Build A Garden" and "Best Supporting Actress" both use the technique of chanting the same words over the same beat over and over again (other songs do this as well, just not quite as obviously). I understand that these repeating verses are things we know as "choruses," but man, does Team beat them to death. They just don't stop. And this works to great effect- when the tracks stand alone. But when listened together, in the context of the album, all you can think is "same old, same old."
And like all eight-song EPs should avoid but tend to do anyway, Build A Garden brings on the filler. "Yard," one of the three new tracks, takes the "haunting group vocals" thing a tad too far, but whatever. It's only a minute of your time that ultimately becomes a small part of the great Build A Garden experience. "Haha" has a quiet charm (actually, after another few listens, no it doesn't, it's annoying), but never touches the rest of the album in quality. Album-closer "Oh No" also feels extraneous, with melodies that don't match the rest of Garden.
"Oh No" also gives Fiddler her first solo on the album. Her voice doesn't fare as well by itself. She should stick to hauntingly backing Anderson. And for the rest of the album, she does. And for almost all of the rest of the album, it works. As long as One For The Team builds on making their tracks more fresh and dynamic, they have great things in store. They make charming music, and you can go a long way with a lot of charm.
Shout-out to Confusion at Pigeons And Planes, who correctly points out that Team creates "songs that are timeless. [They've] created a collection of songs that wouldn't be out of place on a mix with tracks from the Beatles' White Album, The Pixies' Doolittle, or Neutral Milk Hotel's In An AeroplaneOver the Sea."
Build A Garden is certainly worth a listen, if not a purchase.