So, this is an odd change of pace. Woody & Jeremy, aka Woody Goss and Jeremy Daly, have overhauled their collaboration following their previous album Strange Satisfaction, released as recently as March of last year, in order to become what sounds like an entirely different band on Gravy in My Coffee. Not sure what I mean? Listen to the first song off of their previous record (“Too Hot in L.A.”) and their current record (“Rolling in the Basement”) and let’s compare the similarities… I’m waiting… this was a foolish exercise. Cutting to the chase scene, the collaboration is no longer simply Cass McCombs style, mid-’00s, indie folk vocals overlapping passably funky soul music. It’s gotten much weirder than that. Possibly too weird for some, just weird enough for others. Who is this weird enough for at this point? Well, it’s just you and me here, and I’m the one writing the review, so the answer is me!
I don’t think I’m stepping over a line here when I say that Woody & Jeremy have something that very few indie bands in their lane still have, and that is a genius. And when I say a genius, I mean in the original Greek sense of the word. As in a talent for bringing forth the essence of a thing, or revealing a quality that is authentically its own. Woody & Jeremy have assembled a combination of sounds, points of reference and psychographic predilections on Gravy in My Coffee that only they as a duo can rightfully lay claim to. They’ve stumbled on to a similar path as Ron Mael and Russell Mael of Sparks had in decades prior- albeit chasing a different rabbit, down a different hole, and eating a similarly large, but distinct care package of mushrooms and instructively labeled cookies. They’ve become larger and more peculiar as a result, and this has allowed them to succeed in growing into the potential of the project.
Going back to the first song I used as an example, “Rolling in the Basement” sees Jeremy employing a stilted, John Linnell-esque, rhythmic pluck in his vocal delivery that is just irritating enough to be endearing, while he bobs over a friendly, and slightly Cake obsessed, country-funk groove. And that’s how the album starts. “L.A. Drivers” demonstrates the duo’s sense of humor over a sun-cripsted, surfy-scrape, delivering dead-pan observations about the world during a commute on a California highway, indulging in thoughts and conclusions that as familiar as they are ominous. Similarly amusing is the brash, Buzzcock riffed and beat-poet cadenced, brow-beating bounce, of the unnervingly candid cringe-fest “My Old Bassist.” While most of the album plays a fast-paced game of keep away from the listener, always evading expectations, only to sideline you with absurdity, there are moments when the band is able to deliver a song with a straight face. Most notably amongst these are the dusty, power-pop balled “Closed Eyes” and the calming glow and bright repetitions of the earnestly affectionate closer “She’s a Stone.”
I really like how the band has turned the corner on this release to find themselves in a place where they can embrace this authentically and uniquely strange sound. I hope they stay the path on future records. In the meantime, a second, third, fourth (and so on…) helping of Gravy in My Coffee will suit me just fine.
Buy and stream Gravy in My Coffee below via Bandcamp: