Sometimes the best way to move forward is by changing directions. Raleigh-based guitarist Ben Young, bassist Andrew McGinn and drummer Scott Jackson performed under the moniker “Magnolia” for the better part of three years before announcing that the band would be proceeding under the name “propersleep” in a Facebook post on August 9.
The band also announced it had signed with North Carolina-based Cardigan Records (Youth League, Bruxes, Icaria), with a debut planned shortly thereafter—a rerelease of their (perhaps fortuitously named) 2017 EP, “Transitions.”
“Getting signed to Cardigan is such a milestone for our band,” the band recently told New Noise Magazine. “To be signed with Cardigan motivates us and shows us we have a place here, however small or large it may be. We are stoked on being introduced as part of the Cardigan family and looking forward to the growth of the label and its bands.”
“Transitions” opens with “In My Head,” a song showcasing one of propersleep’s biggest strengths: the interplay between Young and McGinn’s vocals. Deployed sometimes in a “call and response” format and other times in tight harmonies (like in the verses of “Puppeteer”), propersleep’s vocal timeshare rightfully sits at the forefront of the album. Young and McGinn’s voices are easily discernable in the mix, but similar enough to each other that neither feels out of place or clumsy in any given arrangement, whether occupying a lead line or harmony.
propersleep often overlays contrasting vocal melodies with one singer doling out a quickly-phrased passage while the other adds long tones, as in the chorus of “Puppeteer.”
While only a three-song sampling, “Transitions” more than adequately highlights the versatility of propersleep’s arrangements. “In My Head” opens with Young singing over a simple palm-muted verse passage while McGinn cuts in and out before shifting to synchronized band hits into a roaring wide-open chorus. “The Take” sees McGinn covering lead vocal duties through the first verse before sharing the sprawling chorus with Young. “Puppeteer” positions Young squarely as the lead singer with McGinn providing harmonies and gang-style backing vocals until the song’s climax, when McGinn emerges again with melodies of his own.
Throughout the three-song EP, Young’s guitar sounds distorted and full without losing individual note clarity. While his parts often consist of punchy or washy chords, Young does play lead lines at moments like the bridge of “Puppeteer.” Jackson’s drumming is diverse and authoritative, deftly switching from full-time to half time, and back again without taking attention from the vocal performances. While typically tasked with enforcing the root notes, McGinn still finds appropriate opportunities for fitting bass fills or moving lines while still contributing his vocals.
On “The Take,” propersleep sings about being driven to a “place where I couldn’t sleep and that “I gave up on everything.” Fortunately for listeners, the band never gave up. propersleep is heading to Canton, Georgia’s “Upstream Studios” to record their debut full-length for Cardigan in September 2017, eyeing an “early 2018” release.
If “Transitions” serves as any kind of foreshadowing, listeners are in for a thematically strong, yet diverse and varied record—don’t sleep on it.
Photo by Alex Murdock.