Olympia, Washington’s best kept secret might have been Gun Outfit, that is until people get wind of the incredible piece of work they’ve constructed, and just released. Hard Coming Down is their third LP for Post Present Medium, and according to press, the first that includes bass. I don’t care much about any of that, other than I can’t get enough of their blend of Sonic Youth meets Built to Spill meets Dinosaur Jr meets rock n’ roll.
Hard Coming Down almost opens up softly, with a relaxed female vocal from Carrie Keith, but that doesn’t stick around for too long. Guitars begin to ring out loudly and angular-ly, while drums pound heavily in the background. Of course, the Sonic Youth attribute does exist in the opener, with the band going from soft to hard in a flash, though Keith has more of a sweetness to her vocal as opposed to Kim Gordon. From here the album goes into one of its many highlights with “Lau Blues,” with Dylan Sharp offering up his drawn out vocals for a change in the album’s dynamic. Here you’ll find the same sharpness to the guitars, though they have a country-fied meandering to them, all working around Sharp’s vocal.
While it’s easy to throw these guys in a grab bag of various alt-rock favorites, they manage to make the sound entirely their own. For instance, the opening guitar work on “I’ve Got a Gift” surely has that fast paced guitar/bass battle working, but it’s the approach that changes things up. Rather than let the guitar create direction, it’s the vocals here (Sharp again) that dictate where the track will go. It’s almost a country-jam, though the pace might be too quick for that allusion. There’s also “Death Drive,” which combines some Mascis-esque vocal tones, but the drumming alone is something that allows this song to step outside of the shadows of their fore-fathers. Personally, I dig the juxtaposed vocals on this track between Sharp and Keith.
Of course, you’re going to have to pick your favorite singer between Sharp and Keith, and today, I’m sticking with Carrie. Her voice on the twangy “Fallen Sun Song” is one of her best, and the more I listen to it, the more I see a haunting darkness lurking beneath the soft cover. Or you can go back to “High Price to Pay” where she sounds more life-worn. Wherever she pops up, it’s with purpose, providing a distinctive sound that elevates the entire record. But, I assure you Dylan’s performances aren’t too shabby either.
Up until now I had really only been familiar with Dim Light, the group’s last album, but Hard Coming Down just continues to grow spiritually within me, especially when you bust out the vinyl version. Gun Outfit has been on the tip of everyone’s tongue, but this album secures the band’s spot as one of the brightest stars on the musical horizon.