Benjamin Buttice - Vocals, Guitar, Synth, Percussion
Alex Bailey - Bass, Organ, Piano, Vocals
Mitch Keller - Drums, Vocals
Ben Wahamaki - Synth
Produced by Collin Ingram and Ben Wahamaki
Additional Engineering by Jon Alonzo
Recorded at State Line Studios, Fort Collins, CO
Additional Recording at Harry Backline, Fort Collins, CO
Additional Recording at Foothills Unitarian Church, Fort Collins, CO
Mixed by Steven Aguilar at Zero Chemistry, Los Angeles, CA
Mastered by Ed Brooks at Resonant Mastering, Seattle, WA
Cover Artwork by Justin Camilli
Sour Boy, Bitter Girl Readies The Palm Reader and the Palm Writer. Out December 1st, 2017 on Strange Light Records.
You’d be excused if you couldn’t find much to sing about these days, with the great leap backward American culture has taken recently. There’s no shame in succumbing to the dread, ennui and general feeling of inevitable doom that’s crept in around the corners. We entered into a staring contest with the void, and lost. Modern life, it seems, is somehow just so exhausting.
Sour Boy, Bitter Girl’s The Palm Reader and the Palm Writer knows that hollowed-out feeling, and delivers a set that’s the perfect soundtrack to battening down the hatches and waiting for the winds to change direction. That’s not to say the Denver band’s third full-length and label debut is raging against the machine or cheering Nero as he plays. Leave that to the activists and doomsayers. These days, SBBG just carries on, gritting its teeth in favor of the histrionics so common in underground music.
“The months before The Palm Reader came out, I really struggled with a sense of dread like I’ve never had before,” SBBG singer-guitarist Benjamin Buttice explains. “The future has never looked bleaker in my lifetime, what with the specter of nuclear war, climate change and everything else. It was hard to find the desire to keep making art.”
Keep making art he did, and The Palm Reader is a roadmap of a songwriter moving on from lamenting errors of judgement and self-inflicted tragedies to grapple with the realization that it’s the future where the real dread lies. The result hones the lyricism of Palm Reader’s predecessor, 2015’s Mule EP, as it shifts away from its largely folk-based arrangements to bring SBBG squarely back into the rock-band world. It’s not so much a return to the form that guided the band’s two prior albums (2009’s Songs About the Landscape or Songs About the Wolf Army and 2012’s The Days After the Fire, both out from Death to False Hope Records) as a step forward.
The Palm Reader offers listeners a darker, more polished and more muscular version of Sour Boy, Bitter Girl than Buttice ever mustered. Tapping a constantly rotating cast of players (bassist Alex Bailey and drummer Mitchell Keller on these recordings), SBBG crafts a soundtrack for our absolutely awful modern age. Opening track “Dresden” makes references to firebomb campaigns (of course) while shouldering the weight of existential loneliness, as Buttice weaves a spidery lead guitar for a track that’s equal parts Nick Drake and Ted Leo. The plodding, expansive bass line on “Stone Pillows” hints at the shadows of Twilight Sad, only to be rescued from the brink by an anthemic chorus and an unexpected trumpet bridge; it’s just barely enough to keep Buttice’s reflections on fatalistic despair at bay. “Goodbye, Tokyo” references a myriad of apocalyptic scenarios around a love song, while “Summers in Middle America” references the early ’00s indie underground without sounding like a relic.
For anyone marking SBBG’s career, the artistic jump forward on The Palm Reader shouldn’t be a surprise. Formed in 2005 as Buttice tired of the confines of the Fort Collins, Colorado punk scene, the outfit’s literally logged too many tour miles to recap and featured too many members to remember, let alone chronicle. Buttice shepherded SBBG through enough independent-band drama/bullshit to know a thing about rebirth and redemption. At least on an artistic level. After a listen to The Palm Reader, you’ll wonder if the band -- and everyone else -- can make it through the next few years.
“I know I’m not the only one who struggles with this sense of dread,” Buttice says. “But it usually feels like it. Maybe The Palm Reader is a way of helping others who feel like that know that we’re in this together - but ultimately alone.”
11/30 - Laramie, Wyoming - Venue TBA
12/1 - Fort Collins, CO - Surfside 7
12/2 - Denver, CO - 3 Kings