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Portraits of Sawyer, 'Whatever You May Say'


Published September 15, 2021 at 10:00 a.m.

Portraits of Sawyer, Whatever You May Say - COURTESY
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  • Portraits of Sawyer, Whatever You May Say

(Self-released, digital)

Whatever You May Say, the new album by Burlington's Portraits of Sawyer, is deliciously cryptic and musically cohesive, masterfully blending styles. With strange, evocative lyrics, it often seems like a soundtrack in search of a movie. Or movies, as it were.

That's a concept Adam Garcia (guitars, vocals, percussion) discussed recently with indie music website Cool Top 20. "The music styling is so eclectic on the album," Garcia told the site, adding that each track could be placed in a different film genre.

Garcia and Ben Wiggins (lead vocals, keyboards, guitars) formed Portraits of Sawyer in Brooklyn's Bay Ridge neighborhood in 2008. That year they released the EP Superdestroyer, followed by singles in 2014 and 2016. The duo has lived in Vermont since 2017 and recorded the new album's title track and other vocals at Williston's Meadowlark Studios. (Illustrations by Vermont artist Alana LaPoint and YouTube videos for three tracks make the album a multimedia experience.)

Whatever You May Say packs a clown car's concentration of styles — from folky jangle to piano pop to straight-ahead rock — into its seven songs. Get ready for many "Wait, did I hear that?" double takes. Was that harmonica? Was that violin (or fiddle)? Were those wah-wah electronic keys? Yes, yes and yes.

With its chugging guitars, machine gun drums and explosion sound-effect coda, "Mullet Action" would fit in a James Bond spy flick. Odd lyrical musings float by: "In my soul / I told a summer tale to the crows along my road" and "MIT is where I wanna be." Then comes a mind-bending string of instructions: "We begin with clean design line / Start with the littlest layer, pull from the back / Watch out for the pear-shaped face / Avoid salty buildup." Bake at 350 degrees for 40 minutes and get ... what, exactly? We may never know.

The harmonica driven "Busey" could go in a 1920s gangster movie. It has one of the most entertaining see-what-rhymes sequences since Phish's "Cavern." "Gary Busey / I Love Lucy / Snooze you lose-y," Wiggins sings at turns. I wanted to keep going: Stanley Tucci, Scaramucci, watch the lovers go smoochie, smoochie...

The album's contemplative songs would fit in jagged indie romance movies. The guitar-folk "Roll My Number" could play as a disappointed lover trudges off-screen, head crammed with shattered relationship shrapnel. "I'm starting for the door, and I am ready for the golden light," Wiggins sings. The piano-backed title track seems ready for a breakup scene: "I'm walking down my road alone / Left by the window." The guy is so hurt that he sneaks away, maybe shaking off rumpled bedclothes in the dead of night.

Full of vivid imagery, Whatever You May Say is an excellent riddle with a resolution always a tongue's slip away. Even after many listens, a lyric or a visual emerges, knocking one's thoughts askew. Phew!

Whatever You May Say is available at portraitsofsawyer.bandcamp.com.