The Dead Armadillos are the type of band you always wished you and your friends would be; authentic, relaxed and writing about what you love. There are few folk-alternative bands out there that don’t feel forced, and even fewer that make me want to visit the band’s native Oklahoma to see what it was that inspired this EP.
The Dead Armadillos EP is something that feels familiar and comforting while maintaining a sense of identity. There is a loving mixture of Death Cab For Cutie and The Early November circa The Mother, The Mechanic, and the Path (mostly The Mother). The sound is recognizable, but it still feels distinctive from most anything else out there.
One of the most redemptive qualities is that each instrument is given its due. The bass isn’t under-produced, the vocals aren’t hidden beneath layers of music, and the guitars aren’t the focal point of the EP. Mark Hine’s drumming thunders through on “The Only Thing” and leads the band before knowing when to settle and provide only a ghost of strength during the EP’s slower moments.
Travis Lyon’s bass is a highlight as it bounces the album along at a crisp pace, even as the guitars take their time. As such, Lyon never stagnates too much on a single chord progression and provides a strong melody to boost the song. There is a slight tint of Chicago’s Lucky Boys Confusion and The Insecurities to the melodic structure that makes the songs sound local and birthed next door.
As lead guitarist, Bert Hughlett knows when to steal the show and when to lay in wait. The music itself seems to flow smoothly until Hughlett jumps to add a bluesy burst of energy before hiding again for the next opportunity (“I Can Change Your Life”). Nick Lyon, the group’s vocalist, guitarist and resident harmonica player avoids being drowned out by the music and finds the exact spots where he can pull to the forefront. While his guitar might be a bit stifled by Hughlett, the harmonica and vocals take center stage when the chance calls for it.
Lyon’s vocals are deep for a folk inspired group, but he manages to keep the lyrics on task. He also has a knack for bursting out harmonica solos that sounds absolutely necessary to each song. The only downside to his vocals is that they sound a bit monochromatic after a while, but this band is focused on the power of the vocals as opposed tracing as many notes on the scales as possible.
Lyrically, the EP focuses on relatable and down to earth tones that base themselves in Oklahoma. “Boston” is a prime example, as Lyon sings, “I know that I’ve got to leave / But I don’t want to go / Boston, I miss you / But Oklahoma, I’m heading home”. The country influences are few but strong; it is Oklahoma after all. “My Hometown” has Lyon singing about the double standard of remembering where you grew up – a mixture of wanting to leave and wondering how anyone could ever want to. “Everyone drives the roads / That seem to lead to nowhere / They follow everyone / In hopes they’ll lead out of here / In my hometown, my hometown / If you find the road in / You’ll have trouble leaving”.
The Dead Armadillos are a hypnotic mixture of country influence, blues, folk and rock. That’s not to pin anything against them; they’re not afraid to test the bounds of genre and blend a healthy mix of sounds together to create what they want. Each song feels home-grown, down to Earth and fleshed out. Unlike many bands’ initial EPs, The Dead Armadillos know who they are and aren’t trying to feign genre and inspiration to impress. The biggest gripe about this EP is that I am so curious about what their first LP will entail that The Dead Armadillos EP feels like a tease.
by Kyle Schultz
Kyle Schultz is the Senior Editor at It’s All Dead and has worked as a gaming journalist at Structure Gaming. He lives in Chicago and actually put Oklahoma on the map of places to visit because of this EP. Although to be fair, he’s easily influenced and susceptible to propaganda. PROPAGANDA!
Thanks, man. You said some nice things.