The stakes are high, and tension taints the air you breathe. Naturally, you question whether you should go all-in. Do you have the best hand? Unquestionably, it’s unusual, rare even, to be certain you do and make it pay out. Here come the second thoughts. Maybe it’s not the best choice right now. Hold it back for now, keep strategy, play it slow. This draws the fish in and then you know it’s time eat them right up.
I imagine that this was the thought process between Squid the Whale’s latest EP, Four More. Yes, it’s another EP but it’s another damn good one. Slowly taunted by a bluesy introduction, the band comes back, guns blazing with “Bad Man” picking up right where new war. left off, in which the rhythm department takes the helm thanks to the crunchy bass of Daniel Jay and the commanding drum lines of Jonathan Wagoner. That quarrelsome attitude that oozed in early work is certainly back, now with tightened production and more pizzazz that throws in a massive punch and an evolved sense of identity that a 1960s greaser in a Spaghetti Western would be proud of. This elaborate style is easily sustained in “How Do I Show These Cowboys I’m Alive,” which features Gatsby’s American Dream’s Nic Newsham, a man who’s no stranger to music with attitude. The guitars kick in with a few flicks of the wrist, compliments of Brandon Kubiac. Vocally, though, Bradley Walden has grown – significantly so. Everything from new war., such as the drawn out melodies that swiftly transform to a smooth falsetto, is present but fine-tuned and enhanced. Melodic repetition coupled with speed variation does the trick, as no song vocally stays at the same pace or range for too long, which may have been the case on their previous work. Choruses are catchier than ever and verses glide with fresh techniques and ease.
But there’s another side that wasn’t so readily explored in previous material. “Drown Pt. II” is dynamic and haunting, more so than its predecessor. Strikes of the piano keys are distant yet powerful, withstanding the already fantastic vocal delivery by Walden and tonally gorgeous Lisa Vitale. This comes to a climax that serves as a bitter exchange between the duo, proving to be one of, if not the most sincere and compelling track in all of Squid the Whale’s discography. “Warden Sings the Blues” follows the vocal-centric approach, though it requires full band participation. Walden’s soaring falsetto shines along with glassy guitar lines that bring the Western vibe to the fore. Rhythmically, the song takes the pace of a slow march, engendering a remorseful tone that presents a fitting conclusion to Four More.
So, did Squid The Whale go all-in? Unfortunately not. But they may as well have. Whatever the reason be that the band chose to record only an EP, they can be proud of the work they have done. I believe they had and still have the winning hand. With strengthened identity and successful experimentation, they are ready to go all-in for a full length. But in the meantime, I don’t mind watching Squid the Whale draw in as many fish as they can and eating them up. I expect Four More, at the very least, to do just that.