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The Special Pillow – At the Earth’s Core (The Special Pillow)

The Special Pillow - At the Earth's Core
17 March 2017

Formed by ex-Hypnolovewheel bassist/singer Dan Cuddy and drummer Peter Walsh following their former band’s 1993 dissolution, this Hoboken, NJ foursome’s initial lineup also included Yo La Tengo bassist James McNew – though he played guitar on TSP’s 1994 debut Ancient History. (More recently, YLT covered TSP’s “Automatic Doom” – from their 2003 second LP Inside the Special Pillow – on 2015’s Fakebook spin-off Stuff Like That Out There.) It took seven years for the band to release their first-rate 2014 fourth LP Infinite Regression, so it feels fortunate to have this follow-up come only two years later. With Fly Ashtray stickman Eric Marc Cohen replacing Walsh, and P.G. Six’s Debby Schwartz providing backing vocals on five tracks, At features more of Infinite’s fetching folk-pop, fusing Go-Betweens, Wild Carnation, Downy Mildew, and The Bats. (In my issue 75 review of Infinite, I also compared them to Boston’s recently revived, similarly sumptuous Sleepyhead, whom Cuddy also once played in, and whom TSP has shared stages with.)

Original member Katie Gentile’s supple strings – she supplies both violin and viola – prance and pirouette on the spry, streaming/social media-skewering “An Overwhelming No” and spirited, self-depreciating “Dangling and Dying,” and pacify on the soothing (and Gentile-sung) “(We Will Never) Split the Difference.” Elsewhere, sonorous, psych-tinged numbers like the viola-fueled, “Venus in Furs”-invoking “All That We Say (And Don’t Say)” and pounding, NJ PATH-parodying “Mystery Train 3000” showcase guitar guru Peter Stuart’s gritty gifts. Add in Cuddy’s cagey, cutting, double entendre-dotted lyrics – see the terse, teasingly titled “Rightfully Left” – and At is another alluring album. (specialpillow.com, thespecialpillow.bandcamp.com)

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