On Falling Rising, melodies dance among horns to the jazzy beat of summer.

In 2016, with a grant from Club Passim’s Iguana Fund, Gretchen and the Pickpockets produced a sleek video for their song “Old Souls.” The video features both young and old couples catching bugs, climbing hay bales, and touching each other awkwardly (the young couples) or affectionately (the old couples) in rural fields and rustic barns. The accompanying music is ambient and spiritual—a floating cloud of wholesome melancholy.

Fast forward to the present, and Gretchen and the Pickpockets have ginned up the purity punch with Falling Rising, a record, like “Old Souls,” with broad, intergenerational appeal, but mercilessly infused with grooves and booze (or with whatever booze’s musical equivalent is). If in 2016 listeners were taken to church, in 2018, they’ve been invited to a wedding.

The band is fronted by vocalist Gretchen Klempa, and it’s her voice that pops the first bottle of champagne in Falling Rising. Effortless and commanding, her voice sails from riff to riff like a conductor swooping her sonic baton. High-energy tracks like “Love You Forever” and “Easy on My Heart” are full of jazzy-wavering, poppy-winding, and plaintive, crisp howls that boost the songs up to their pinnacle. Klempa is a maestro who isn’t afraid of rousing an invisible crowd, encouraging them to giddyup (“Come on!” “Get loose!”). Klempa’s interjections give the album a distinct, live sound. Seeing a show might trigger déjà vu—the listener has imagined it so many times before.

As Klempa sings, seemingly off in the stratospheric portion of her range, she still blends into her band, and the listener’s reminded that the larynx is just another instrument. The band’s complementary timbres fuse to create a fun, funky swirl. The instrumental ingredients of the funk-swirl, the Pickpockets, consist of a rhythm section, a saxophone, and a trumpet, but it’s really their soul-inspired arrangements that act as the primary limb-mover.

The feel changes on “Keep Talking,” for instance, basically demand dancing—the listener lurches to sudden, headbanging horns placed among sultrier, chiller grooves. The horn riff that concludes “Let Me Do My Thing,” too, is ecstatic and celebratory. The group may be at their best when inspiring movement, playing uptempo and precise arrangements, and serving as a soundtrack for moments of joy you’ve experienced and—as is almost compulsory when listening to the album—imagined.

One striking aspect of Falling Rising is that the sound Gretchen and the Pickpockets achieve is almost synesthetically summerly and al fresco. Guitar tremolo simulates heat haze, trumpet riffs drift through like cool breezes, and keyboard chords are as smooth as soft grass. The lyrics, too, are frequently redolent of summer romance. Just like in “Old Souls,” fields and couples never seem far away. But just like summer nights, tedium isn’t fully out of the picture either. The ballads on the album are hit or miss, and when running on sentiment, the band occasionally loses steam. But, it’s nothing a heady Pickpocket’s beat can’t pick up, and then drag all the way to the pool or the dance floor, celebrating earth’s axial tilt.

One Response

  1. Jay

    If you have listened to their entire catalog, you can hear their voice developing as a band. This album is, by far, their best work. The infusion of horns has always been there, but the blend has become that much better. It’s sad to see the number of plays on the songs above drop off, as “Far, Far We Go” may be their best work to date.

    Reply

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