Remember when No Sleep and Topshelf did that whole ‘versus’ thing where they had bands from opposite rosters make fun of their own label? Pretty hilarious stuff. In any case, the ever-existing bond between these two labels continues with the release of a new split between newish No Sleep band Daisyhead and buzzworthy Topshelf outfit Have Mercy. Though it is a stock split by many measures, the overlapping sonic similarities and lengthy track times make this a hearty four-track outing for fans of either label – or for that matter, either band.
My knowledge of Daisyhead prior to their signing to No Sleep is equivalent to zero, so I take this as my introduction – as many people listening to this split will. Balancing the sounds of modern alternative bands with throwback nods already in place, Daisyhead makes good work of sounding aggressive when they need to, but keeping it in check with buzzing melodies and strong vocals. Both tracks feature strong choruses and plenty of catchiness from the lyrics to the melodies – however, both push track lengths into five-minute territory, showing a bit of vulnerability at points where the songs lose a bit of steam. “Dishonest” is probably the more straightforward of the two, buzzing along with gritty guitars and punching waves of strumming. While not a completely left-field track, it gets the job done by getting stuck in your head early and often. “Wonder”, on the other hand, blooms from an acoustic opening and heart-tugging lyricism into something that is churning and gripping even as the electric guitars come and go in application. I can definitely dig what these guys are doing though, even if they aren’t rewriting the book on this genre.
Have Mercy on the other hand… I assume most of us remember them from their fantastic record The Earth Pushed Back that Topshelf put out last year. If you don’t, then you should stop reading this review and go listen to that record. “Pawn Takes Rook” feels like it came straight from the tracklist of that record with its emo-meets-alternative ballad sound, mixing honest lyricism with beautiful guitar work that hits some great high points along its three and a half minutes of strumming and slightly gravelly singing. But where Have Mercy do well to keep pace with themselves on this track, their other track “Pete Rose and Babe Ruth” is honestly a bit of a let-down. While many of the pieces are there for what these guys do best, they just don’t fall into place as they usually do – making for a track that I want to enjoy, but just can’t seem to get into.
Maybe I built this split up a bit too much in my own head, but I would be lying if I didn’t say I was surprised by the final product here. Have Mercy delivers roughly half the goods, while Daisyhead does enough to be honestly interesting without falling into too many comparisons to their modern peers. Even so, this is a decent enough place to start if you’re looking to get into either band.