Sometimes multiple listens are required for an album to really jive; other times, the first ten seconds are enough to let you know that you're in for a great ride. The latter was the obvious case for me with EZTV's debut record, Calling Out, which admittedly had me a bit infatuated before lead singer Ezra Tenenbaum even got to his first verse. True, that's mostly a testament to how solid opening track "Bury Your Heart" is, but all twelve songs on the album have a sort of charm to them.
Released July 10 via Captured Tracks, Calling Out is a collection of scintillating guitar-pop ditties with a distinct inclination towards the '70s. Even after a few full listens, "Bury Your Heart" still stands out as a clear gem—a surf-tinged tune driven by a catchy, sunny hook. As with pretty much all of EZTV's songs, though, the superficial luster is offset by rather gloomy, frustrated lyrics like "Sometimes the weight it drags you on down / Sometimes the hour gets very long." It's a fitting introduction to the songs that follow.
The band's signature sound is easily distinguishable: hints of psych-folk are woven into their sunshine pop with the occasional, more aggressive '70s guitar sound thrown in (the second track, "Pretty Torn Up," is a good showcase of all these elements). Woods' Jarvis Taveniere, enlisted for production help, left his own obvious fingerprints all over the album, and the band cites home recording legend Emitt Rhodes as a big influence, but Alex Chilton also immediately comes to mind.
EZTV's songwriting chops are evident throughout the record. They have a penchant for catchy pop and a talent for making tricky rhythmic changes sound effortless (a credit to bassist Shane O'Connell and drummer Michael Stasiak). "The Light," for example, is a rather lackadaisical number, but a closer listen reveals complex construction. All in all, there's a delicate attention to detail, as with the progression of tracks which, even listening to the record as a digital stream, give a definite sense of "side A" and "side B." Midway through the album, "Soft Tension" projects a sense of closure, but "Dust in the Sky" picks things right back up with upbeat riffs and shimmering vocals.
Lyrically, the band remain decidedly discontent, though in very vague terms. Lines like "Running with my mind / Still trying to be with you" ("Blue Buzz") and "Been here before, I know / Got a long way to go" ("Long Way to Go") betray a serious melancholia and the feeling of being stuck in life. These reflections work well as an anchor for the vintage sound, though they do run the risk of feeling trite at times. The group's forte is undoubtedly in crafting tight melodies, and they highlight this with the album's closing track, "That's Where You Belong." It's a laid-back song with a pleasant pace that seems innocuous, but in fact worms its way into your brain and stays there. And really, what better way to sign off than to hook you in all over again?