Self Defense Family - Duets [EP] (Cover Artwork)
Staff Review

Self Defense Family

Duets [EP] (2014)

Iron Pier Records

2014's Try Me continues to be a polarizing touchpoint for many Self Defense Family supporters. Some have clung to it while others came out against it, claiming it too preachy and at times a tad pretentious. To me it was a record that built on their impressive stuff in the past,rattling off as a more—than—decent piece of work. The nice thing about Duets is that the aforementioned record isn't some sort of preamble meant to inform this collaborative effort between Caroline Corrigan and SDF frontman Patrick Kindlon. Duets feels like an organic fork in the road for a band that loves bold moves and big statements. However, tightening the record to just five songs feels like the large scope and big ambition of "what could have been" don't get explored fully. In time though, I suspect this will change and we'll get the true extent of the potential at hand here.

This string of tracks don't even come off as a side project or even as an experiment and I guess that's due to Corrigan's increased presence frequenting the band's most recent works. It diverges from the band's typical sound but at times, there are more than sufficient bits and pieces to bring their seal of approval back to mind. Breaking the record down, it feels like various chapters dedicated to eras of music. "Been Passed On" has a strong '90s back—end to it (reminiscent of Soundgarden) which acts as a great 1—2 opening combo with "The Way Out is Back." At first glance, both tracks give the feel of a concept record painting the picture of some dystopian future and one of the reasons is that SDF's expansive narrative over the years revolve around the more haunting (and albeit, melodic) aspects of life. That doesn't change here at all. These openers distinguish themselves as tone—setters for a guitar—driven record that spills a lot of Corrigan and Kindlon's insides. They come off more vulnerable as the musical setting is set up for their vocals to stand out and sound off louder than usual.

As the record title tells, it's their synergy which dictates almost everything about the album. Many themes overlap to build a cohesive sound that at times feels too enduring but conversely, at others, feels perfectly safe and right. There's a distinctive tinge of alternative—country meeting indie—rock at several intervals which is bettered by the absences of overextended narratives (which I honestly expected). Each vocalist gives the other time to shine, yet still never let the music slip out of focus. "Incoming Calls" then brings up an '80s—era style which feels more like the pained SDF we all know, bringing back their rock—angst. It's such a sweet setup into "Cancel Man" which proceeds to peel off like a tribute to The Cure. This closes off the record to show the divide in eras I mentioned above. Like they wanted to pay homage. Now, the issue with the five tracker is that you feel like you're being set up at this point for a big payoff, but it doesn't come because the album ends. Really feels like they're prepping a sequel here but you really can't be sure. It's like they're promising something big but telling you tune in next week.

I may be nitpicking but with such a cliffhanger, I guess it's better to lean to the side of optimism and hold out hope. That promise in the interim is building to anticipation to see what ensues post—Duets but there's also a fear that the second half to this record may be a fable. That's the anxious feeling I personally get when such an awesome tease comes around. Overall though, Corrigan and Kindlon shape a lovely documentary which is subtle enough when it needs to be and then shifts to more intrusive nature when called upon. It's not the typical SDF record on the whole but is a neat step forward in a direction that probably is gonna be viewed as weird territory. If it's one band I think can make these pastures work though, it's these guys. Eager for the next move.