If and It is a three-piece indie rock group that has released its seventh CD since 2011. “In with Nobody” is the third in a compilation that was recorded in a New Hampshire cabin in the foothills of the White Mountains over a weekend, a nice tradition to have, as it probably is a relaxed atmosphere where their creativity can surface with little or no interruption, other than their own voices in their heads. This can be a good thing, or quite possibly could be a detriment at times.
As far as the creativity and ambitiousness of the project is concerned, the cabin worked some decent magic on these guys. They came up with some really expressive and interesting guitar melodies and full band arrangements in the mix. Overall, the six-song CD has a retro feel – something a little hazy and dreamy from the 1960s.
The one problem I think they may have is the delivery of the vocals. I have a real hard time with some indie bands these days because there seems to be a theme of wanting to sound like they don’t really care how the vocals come across, and that’s fine if it is done in honesty. But there is a fine line between having a shtick that is creatively combined with hardcore talent and someone who truly does not have it there.
As far as singing ability is concerned, there are plenty of famous musicians who do not have pitch perfect voices or immaculate projection and expression, but they have a character. Too much of this If and It album had that lackadaisical effort in vocal presentation, without character.
Even with some very good ideas for harmonies, it fell flat to my ears. I could not really discern their lyrics, and nothing stood out to me, which is a shame because they may have had some interesting thoughts in there, but I just don’t know.
At the third listen through, my ears perked up to the third track, “Hooves in the Paint.” Starting off with a soft beat and cooly strumming guitar, they project a sadness here, of something lost maybe, a time that has passed to never return again. I felt an earnest lament and could actually crawl into some of their lyrics and take some breaths along with them during this song.
So all is not lost for me with these guys. The more I listened to “In with Nobody,” I started to come around to their warm and fuzzy sound. Maybe eventually the vocals could grow on me, but the problem is I might run out of time.
Kristin DiCara McClellan is a Portland freelance writer.