Sit Resist (i feel there should be a comma in there, as in "sit, resist") is the second full-length record from Laura Stevenson and her band, The Cans. Ms. Stevenson has a genetic proclivity for music, as her press releases push the fact that her grandfather is the guy who wrote Little Drummer Boy and her grandmother was the singer for The Benny Goodman Orchestra back in the day.
This leads me to believe that musical acumen skips a generation. That is, i am familiar with that Christmastime classic penned by her grandfather, and after listening to this record, i can see that she has some talent too. The intervening generation is a mystery, but sometimes genetics works like that.
Ms. Stevenson has a kind of high-pitched voice, and her phrasing is often expressive to the point of quirkiness. The obvious comparison is Regina Spektor, but while Ms. Spektor sometimes seems like she pushes the quirkiness too far, Ms. Stevenson never seems to do so. Her quirkiness is more restrained, more natural seeming. While Regina Spektor is like that kid in school who acted weird to get attention, Laura Stevenson is like the kid who is weird once you really start to pay attention to them, if that makes any sense...
At any rate, i like her voice. She knows what she can do and seems to push herself, twisting the words and syllables into interesting shapes. Her band is pretty good at what they do as well, which is light folk-rock. Nothing on this record is reinventing the wheel, but it is pleasant nonetheless.
The album kicks off with Halloween Pts. 1 & 2, a long intro of arpeggioed guitars and her warbly voice. The song builds nicely, adding in percussion (i guess on Part 2) and a real flurry of sounds. The next song, Master of Art is the single off the record and you can download it free, here. This starts with a martial drum beat, some light guitar, and her voice clear and high. The song soon explodes with full instrumentation and gets pretty rocking and catchy. This is a good pop tune, and moves along at a decent pace with her trebly voice.
Things get a little more melancholy in Caretaker. Stevenson's voice is excessively warbly here, different than on the rest of the record. It makes it seem like she is depressed, as the strings sway and the guitars chime slowly. Pretty, just not upbeat. Things perk back up as Stevenson channels Ms. Spektor on The Healthy One. Her voice is the most Spektorish in pronunciation here, while the band plays some kind of Pogues-esque swing tune with accordion. On Finish Piece she seems to almost embrace the Regina Spektor comparison, just singing over a piano. However, Stevenson's voice has more tremolo, so the effect is not perfect. Still, this song is minimal and vaguely sad.
Peachy picks things back up with a country folk beat. 8:08 is a song title, and not the length of the tune, which starts slowly then explodes with accordion, guitar and drums.
On Red Clay Roots, Stevenson sings through some kind of distortion that makes her voice sound like it is coming from a vintage radio, as if this is some sort of ancient country tune. Honestly, this sounds like something Azure Ray would do, especially as her voice is layered, making her harmonize with herself. Barnacles has horns and nice layers of guitars. However, here her voice reminds me of Dawn Landes, especially on Kids In a Play. This is a perky, fun little song. Montauk Monster is a light folk tune of voice, picked guitar, and banjo, and then at the end there are hand claps making it seem festive.
They leave the country music behind on The Wait, which is a catchy rock song with jangly guitars. The Cans do this type of stuff rather well. However, on The Weight, there is another female voice (or maybe her voice in layers) with softly plucked guitar and some sawing strings. This reminds me of Balmorhea with a nice female voice in front, which is a pretty awesome idea, actually. And finally we end with I See Dark, an accordion-driven song that has Stevenson singing low, tremulous, and aching. The song gets oddly noisy, but ends the record on a real beautiful note.
So as you see, Laura Stevenson and the Cans vary between folk, country, pop, and post-rock, and they do it all well. There is a sense of fun to the way Stevenson sings, and the odd instrumentation (accordion, banjo, strings, and i think a theremin at times!) help give this record an upbeat feel.
Plus, apparently, music is in Ms. Stevenson's blood, so we can expect to hear more from her.