From The Desk Of Brother JT: Elk City

For a good stretch during the late ’80s/early ’90s, the John Terlesky-fronted, garage-rocking Original Sins were poised to be one of indie rock’s next big things. Despite a string of excellent LPs, that never happened for the pride of Bethlehem, Pa., who disbanded in 1999. Prior to the breakup, Terlesky started releasing more experimental records as Brother JT, and they, too, have been stellar. JT keeps his winning streak alive with the new Tornado Juice (Thrill Jockey), produced by Ray Ketchem (Luna, Okkervil River), who also manned the boards for 1996 Original Sins classic Bethlehem. The good Brother will be guest editing all week, tornado juice not included.

JT: I was 20 in 1982, but don’t ask me about the synth-pop hits of the day or even post-punk. I was more enamored of the jangly guitars of ’60s-inspired Paisley Underground acts like Rain Parade and Green On Red. Maybe because, unlike the pose-centric haircut bands, you could still hear echoes of fuzzy idealism in their often-borrowed grooves, and a tendency toward inclusion rather than pretense in their ragtag sentiments. I miss that that naive quality in a lot of music these days, given the trend toward icy ’80s nostalgia.

Which may be why I’ve grown fond of Elk City‘s latest recording, Everybody’s Insecure, on Bar/None Records. It’s not that the Montclair, N.J., band calls to mind the Paisley groups musically per se; indeed, as a pre-release single they chose to do a fairly reverent cover of the Motels’ early ’80s MTV hit “Suddenly Last Summer” (a song I’m not sure ever made it through the garage haze I was in at the time), and I could see it fitting in fairly seamlessly with their live set.

What wins me over is the air of ingenuousness that pervades the tracks, personified by singer/songwriter Renée LoBue. Her songs tip-toe a tightrope between the dreamily child-like and the slightly haunted, both musically and lyrically. The melodies begin to glow with repeated spinnings, and her prettily deadpan vocals—something like a more tuneful Maureen Tucker or a sweeter Karen O—invite you to an intimate tête-à-tête about sparrows, mouths full of sun and “Root Beer Shoes.”

Drummer/producer Ray Ketchem keeps things smooth and warm, befitting the material, and Luna alumnus Sean Eden colors in the spaces with a nice variety of shimmering, chiming guitar textures. But it’s LoBue’s openness of spirit that will bring me back to Everybody’s Insecure when searching for that old Paisley feeling.