(Self-released, digital download)
So long, Will Cuneo. We hardly knew ya.
Cuneo is a Middlebury College grad whose band, the Movies, were fairly popular among the Midd Kid set. Up north in Burlington, we never heard much from that trio while they were active, and it's unlikely that we will in the future. Degree in hand, Cuneo recently moved to Chicago. But before he left, the Movies recorded and released one record, Wanna. And if the eight songs therein are any indication, we've all been missing out.
The record opens on a punchy slice of garage rock with DNA that seems equal parts Clap Your Hands Say Yeah and very early Spoon. Cuneo sings with a nasal whine reminiscent of CYHSY's Alec Ounsworth. But the song's lean, angular framework recalls A Series of Sneaks-era Spoon. That's a potent combo.
"Candy's Home" reveals a melodic punk bent that sneers at late 1970s-early 1980s Elvis Costello. It's brash and snarling but eminently catchy.
Next up is a cover of Big Star's "Thirteen." Taking on the Alex Chilton classic requires serious stones; everyone from Elliott Smith to Jeff Tweedy has covered the song brilliantly. And the original is practically perfect as is, a bittersweet ballad that captures the thrill and innocence of teenage love like no other. With a ragged delivery and jagged guitar jangle, Cuneo more than does it justice. He sounds like a lovesick kid wailing away on his Fender Strat in his parents' garage, which is just about right.
"Someone" is the most ambitious cut of the bunch. It's a meandering, seven-minute slow burn that simmers with brooding tension punctuated by shards of shimmering guitar. "It Feels Good" continues the downcast vibe as Cuneo muses on the small pleasures of a quiet smoke, a new book and, ultimately, a returning lover.
"Running" is dynamic garage with a sophisticated edge. The song vacillates between restrained verse and hook-heavy choruses before receding into a pensive guitar bridge. Then it explodes, unleashing that tension with a bombastic finish.
"Get Educated!" is a seemingly sarcastic cost-benefit analysis of higher education — undoubtedly apropos to students at an elite liberal arts school — that again high-fives CYHSY.
Wanna closes on the sorta-titular "I Wanna Fall." Here, Cuneo yearns for an all-consuming love — perhaps the kind of love you only really experience when you're, say, 15? "I wanna land on my feet with you in my heart / I wanna fly on the street, you in the backseat / makin' faces in the mirror," he sings, his tone longing but pierced with hopefulness. Then, "I wanna stand in the hall with you / back to the wall with you and know / all that it takes is to come a little closer." It's a beautiful close to a stirring record. Don't be a stranger, Will.
Wanna by the Movies is available at themoviesband.bandcamp.com.