Ladyhawk - Shots (Cover Artwork)
Staff Review


Shots (2008)


I can't sleep in anymore. I think it happened between my first and second year of university, once I had left the surreal dorm world behind and started working days. Whatever the reason, something shifted. It works out rather conveniently from Monday to Friday but on weekend mornings I often find myself up and haunting the lower floors of our house while my partner remains in bed. These are the slow, quiet hours, when the bright morning sun and strong coffee work to shake the fog left by the prior evening. Whatever seeds of fury or purpose that exist simply won't be acted upon until the sun's higher and I'm fully awake. This is the time of day Ladyhawk evokes. They're masters of the slow burn yet never get lost shoegazing. I can't think of another modern band that can so completely captures this mood.

The band owes a lot to `60s psych bands like the 13th Floor Elevators and garage innovators like the Seeds. They're schooled in the type of heavy, melodic rock that Neil Young and Crazy Horse popularized. And while their roots go that deep, their aesthetic and attitude owes much to Dinosaur Jr. (and by extension the Replacements). The detached slacker image that J. Mascis so effortlessly crafted loomed large on Ladyhawk's first record and it does once again on Shots. If the album disappoints, it's that it lacks singles with the instantly endearing and uplifting hooks of "The Dugout" and "My Old Jacknife." The three songs that that open this album are regardless very strong, with "Fear" standing out as one of the better built tracks of the year. It spoils the listener by loading three or four strong melodic ideas into four short minutes. After that opening salvo, Shots becomes decidedly more restrained. Momentum's never truly lost, but the band meanders a bit. Of course, Ladyhawk doesn't move too fast by design, and they seem quite comfortable lumbering through sleepier tracks like "Corpse Paint" and the 10-minute marathon "Ghost Blues." "Night You're Beautiful" makes an impression, with backing vocals straight out of "Walk on the Wild Side" and some crunchy Rust Never Sleeps guitar work. Shots rounds out a 10-song run with "Different Beginnings," an inspired, if somewhat paranoid, alt-country gallop with a hint of the Byrds in the chorus.

Shots is as frustrating as it is rewarding. I don't know if it's self-control or self-defeat, but the band seems to pull back on the reins more than the record requires. It remains a quality piece of work, just one that lacks the impact the Ladyhawk clearly has the skills to deliver. I'm hesitant to fault the band too much on this though as if there's one thing most bands fail at, it's exercising restraint. This all keeps Ladyhawk's work from being too top heavy or self-important. While it's not demanding your attention it's infinitely re-listenable. I'd love to see Ladyhawk release three records a year, warts and all, because they could pull it off without becoming tiresome. There's plenty bands I love that I wouldn't even ask that of.