“Errant Forms” by Ladyfinger | Album Review

Author: Mark Bestul
02/28/2013 | Hear Nebraska | | Album Review
[Editor's note: This album review previews Ladyfinger's concert on Sunday at O'Leaver's. The early show, starting at 5 p.m. with Rock Paper Dynamite, is $5 and part of a weekend of shows at the venue. On Friday, Simon Joyner & the Ghosts play the first O'Leaver's grand reopening show with the So-So Sailors and McCarthy Trenching. On Saturday, Criteria and Noah's Ark was a Spaceship play the second of three.]

Ladyfinger is a dark horse among its Saddle Creek Records labelmates. The Omaha band has considerable ground to make before it generates anything close to a Cursive-sized audience. It doesn’t have the widespread appeal of Icky Blossoms or The Faint, and it’s just three albums into a career that began in 2006 with Heavy Hands and continued with 2009’s Dusk.

But national popularity isn’t exactly the point. Ladyfinger succeeds through hometown members such as Pat Oakes, who works as production manager at Saddle Creek-owned Ink Tank. It’s led by songwriter Chris Machmuller, who co-owns O’Leaver’s with Tim Kasher, Ted Stevens and Matt Maginn.

It’s with a Nebraskan workhorse ethic that Ladyfinger releases Errant Forms, the third album from the band that rounds out its lineup with additional Omaha stalwarts, Jamie Massey (who co-owns The Sydney) on guitar, and Dan Brennan (Slowdown sound guy) on bass guitar. Filled with complex, guitar-driven melodies and held strong by powerful rhythm, this album should rise above the expectations of Ladyfinger’s fans. It shows a subtle maturation of the band's style and sound without much departure from the hard, energetic essence.

First of all, there's just not enough bands that challenge a listener’s niche nowadays, but this album, from the onset, does the trick. The recording is much more precise than Dusk. There is a precision to Errant Forms that shows a band that knows exactly how each moment and mood of the record should find you as a listener. There’s always a strange relationship for me to the recordings of bands I have seen live prior to listening to an album. I seem to fall into the trap that the recorded sound should capture all the whirl and twirl of a live show, and that’s really hard to do: That’s why we have live shows. I suppose Dusk more closely captures the live sound of Ladyfinger than Errant Forms, but a record often is a much different artistic expression than a live performance.

The album opener, "Renew," is a brilliant first song as I was able to focus in on different instrument tracks and each could stand up on its own. I heard a coalescence formed from several riffs, melodies and beats, all from different places, brought together for this piece, ballad-like, harsh and gritty, but flowing and easy all at once.

As you dig in, the album successfully maneuvers tempo, pace and orchestration. The great mark of any album, to me, is that it all fits and flows through without prompting the question, "Why is that song here?" And this album accomplishes that flow without the songs sounding repetitive, which is hard to do; fairly seamless transitions from one tune to the next, but each song distinct and worthwhile.

"Dark Horse" is my favorite. I love the droning, distorted yet jangly guitars. I love the nostalgia of music and life the lyrics conjure in my mind. It's probably the closest thing to a pop song on the record, and perhaps that's part of why it stands out above the rest to me. Breaking into singing, echoing melodies midway through the song and building on the song through the finish, it represents all that make this band great.

My personal tastes would have brought the guitars, drums and bass a little more prominent in the mix in relationship to the vocals. This is a rock band and, while the lyrics are sufficient and fairly poignant, one listens to Ladyfinger for that blend of sound that comes from the entire machine; we’re not looking for pretty words or phrases but rather listening for the overall experience sculpted by the band.

The album ends with the harder, faster "He Said She Said." While the rest of the album parades the skills and talents and musical abilities of the band, “He Said She Said” is straightforward than the majority of the songs on the record, allowing you to wind down the album experience with revved-up basics. Ladyfinger makes you miss the ‘90s when guitars were always loud, ears hurt after every show and people smashed the shit out of stuff.

Mark Bestul is a Hear Nebraska contributor. Reach Mark at