The ACBs

Album review: The ACBs - Little Leaves

The ACBs return with a rapid and manic compilation of mentally unstable orchestrations masquerading as two-minute pop songs. Extremely compact arrangements treat fluff like a four-letter word as the Kansas City foursome cruises through thirteen tracks in roughly 30 minutes.Seriously, only two tracks on this album crest the three-minute mark. Often they halt suddenly without cause or warning, which actually works well within the scope of Little Leaves, as each song almost serves like a poetic prelude into the following one.

The music is mostly driven by the pretty-boy sounding guitars, all cleaned up and ready to be taken home to meet your mom. Occasionally, they are allowed to dance with the distortion pedal which provides just enough 5 o’clock shadow to thicken the sonic landscape. The rhythm section and additional instrumentation are solidly envisioned and executed, rarely providing more than just the perfect amount of foundation, dynamics, and drive. Lead vocalist Konnor Ervin vocalizes with an unsure innocence, often coming across like a preteen Ben Gibbard or Connor Oberst just on the verge of hitting puberty. At times it is hard to tell if he is unwilling to commit to the idiosyncrasies of his voice, but in the scope of the whole record, the vocal performance becomes a sporadic, almost neurotic force of dynamics and mystery.
Thematically, Little Leaves is deliciously sinister. Under the sheen of ‘60s go-go girl guitars and booty-shaking beats, there are real issues being thrown around here. While other smiley pop songs are out pining over girls and living up the good life, these tracks are popping Xanax and cutting themselves. They know exactly how many times they can hit their heads on the wall before they pass out. It is an extremely interesting and impressive contrast of style and substance. Not too many bands can be so musically joyful and thematically self destructive at the same time.
The album kicks off with “All Over,” a perfect candidate for the background music to that montage from your favorite romantic comedy where the guy and girl desperately scramble to try to get over each other (only to later realize at the height of some sort of arbitrary “emergency” that they are destined to be together). But just as you are preparing yourself for a quiet and reserved collection of introspective lullabies, the album rushes through a handful of more straightforward pocket-sized burners, most effective being “Oceans.” Almost channeling the more recent work of The Get Up Kids, this song features some of the best usage of additional instrumentation on the record, slowly slipping into just enough sonic cacophony to separate it from the rest of the bunch.
“Underweight,” with its fraught longing and simplicity, seems like a cathartic demo that didn’t quite make the final cut for consideration on Pinkerton. Just a super gorgeous slice of sorrow.
(lyrics transcribed the best these musician ears can understand)
When we go up state
I won’t search for you I promise
Up till now I’ve been honest
I’m probably gonna find you there
I don’t want to be trapped under my weight
I don’t want to be trapped underweight and hated
 “Xanies” is another stand-out effort. It is a terrific microcosm of the whole album: a funky and dancey track on the surface, yet under the veneer actually more morose than the one-eyed dog from the saddest late-night Sarah McLachlan soundtracked commercial you’ve ever seen.
The ACBs have taken great strides to keep their often bubble gum sound heavily saturated with bittersweet layers of modern living. Overall, these thirteen tracks brilliantly sucker punch the gut with a deep neurosis full of anti-depressants and coping mechanisms, yet remain pleasant and bouncy enough on the surface to engage the casual radio listener. We’ve been anxiously awaiting this sophomore effort for quite some time. Safe to say, this beautiful collection of reality-sodden pop gems exceeds all expectations.
Little Leaves will officially be released this Tuesday, but The ACBs will celebrate the release of the vinyl on Saturday, March 9, at Vinyl Renaissance on 39th St. This free, all-ages show will kick off at 1:00 pm with The People, She’s A Keeper at 1:45, and The ACBs at 2:30. The ACBs will also be performing at Ink’s Middle of the Map Fest from April 4-6. Specific set times and venues TBA.
--Zach Hodson

Zach Hodson is a monster. He once stole a grilled cheese sandwich from a 4-year-old girl at her birthday party. He will only juggle if you pay him. I hear he punched Slimer right in his fat, green face. He knows the secrets to free energy, but refuses to release them until "Saved by the Bell: Fortysomethings" begins production.

He is also in Dolls on Fire and Drew Black & Dirty Electric, as well as contributing to various other Kansas City-based music, comedy, and art projects.


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New video: "Ocean" by The ACB's

"Ocean" is the newest release from The ACB's off its upcoming release Little Leaves. Director Danny Joe Gibson creates a playful and entrancing stop-motion video, achieving the same effect as the music. The ACB's have been able to inject a cerebral atmosphere with their music, while at the same time keeping it melodically sweet for a general audience. The success of their 2010 album Stona Rosa challenges the band to up the ante, but if "Ocean" is any indication, the new album could see the band take off in greater directions than before.

--Michelle Bacon

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