The Snake the Cross the Crown - Cotton Teeth (Cover Artwork)
Staff Review

The Snake the Cross the Crown

Cotton Teeth (2007)

Equal Vision

Equal Vision Records is so diverse it makes the United Nations look like the Ku Klux Klan. Elitist douche bags aside, the label has something for (nearly) everyone. Huntsville, Alabama's the Snake the Cross the Crown quietly released their first album, Mander Salis, in 2004 on the label, but their indie/alt-country styling should hopefully reach wider audiences with the long-awaited release of Cotton Teeth.

Don't be shocked to see that rectangular logo, by the way, when you look to the back of the jewel case. Most might expect the Saddle Creek piano, as Snake Cross Crown would definitely sound at home amongst the likes of the Good Life and alumnus Rilo Kiley. However, an unusual home hardly hurts the merits of the well-crafted songs at hand here.

Those songs, by the way, range in mood and tempo quite impressively. "Cakewalk" is a minimalist, bare bones opener showcasing Kevin Jones's occasionally lazy affectation, while "The Great American Smokeout" is more sprawling and shuffling. "Gypsy Melodies" is an elaborate, group vocal-sung piece that carefully builds, piling layers of instruments that grow louder and louder through the five-minute song, hitting its peak three-fifths of the way through.

Additionally, Cotton Teeth benefits from a couple moments that seem to directly reference a few other specific acts, and those instants of familiarity are pleasing without feeling derivative. "Hey Jim" feels incredibly similar to Murder by Death's "Until Morale Improves, The Beatings Will Continue" but in the context of Cotton Teeth carries its own identity and provides an unusual snarl the band pulls off sincerely. The album's most epic offering, the seven-minute "Electronic Dream Plant," winds down its free-spirited adventure with layers of vocals, including soothing gospel yelps and chanted "na-na"s in much the same way the Promise Ring's "Say Goodbye Good" finishes its own bold length. Jones seems to channel a little Stephen Malkmus in "Floating in & Out."

Cotton Teeth tends to be easy on the ears with the sporadic heavy moment, but it's a varied pace that works all the same. The Snake the Cross the Crown isn't rewriting everything you know about southern-fried indie pop/rock, but you'll definitely notice a couple revised chapters.

Behold the River

The Great American Smokeout