You probably won't need a particularly heightened sense of sarcasm to figure out that Last to Show First to Go isn't playing it straight with the title of its new EP, Everything's Fine, America. The Americana-leaning quintet isn't interested in false assurances or rose-colored glasses — its songs are built on the premise that things will, indeed, fall apart and are probably already broken. But that doesn't make them a band of pessimists; lead singer and guitarist Bredon Jones is serious but never dour, and there's always a knowing gleam in his songs. The lightness of the band's roots-rock approach tempers whatever vitriol sneaks through in the lyrics, though the five-song EP opens with a jolt. A mild peal of feedback-drone that opens "When We Are Up" gives way to a punchy, nearly funky guitar riff that finds Jones and guitarist Mikey Naucas laying down a barbed path. Miriam Keller's trumpet normally adds a mellow, sometimes wavering solo voice on top of Jones' vocals, but on "When We Are Up," she turns her instrument into a one-woman horn section, with quickly punctuated runs helping the chorus pop.
It's been that slightly unconventional instrumentation that has helped Last to Show stand out in concert and on its two previous releases — these are guitar-and-voice driven songs that follow a set pop/rock structure, but the trumpet, along with upright bassist Jay Lewis' turns on cello, broaden the palette. Lewis' pizzicato flourishes on the deceptively mellow "Subtle Blend" mesh with Phil Valko's light brushwork. If that makes the band hard to classify, it also puts these songs somewhere between the hooky directness of pop music and the prophesying of political folk music. Three of these five songs exceed six minutes, though that's almost always to facilitate sections of instrumental emotion. The capitalist jeremiad "Delivery Day" builds to an almost spoken-word bridge, though its message is neither pointed nor particularly revolutionary. The set-closing title track ends the disc with similarly pitched dooms-saying that shows off some rattling slide guitar and Jones' increasingly soaring voice; here, the lilting melody and waltz time builds to a satisfying crescendo. The EP is long on questions and short on answers, which isn't much of a problem when the music takes flight.
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