“Happy Truman,” by Late Light Cardigan, begins deceptively. You think, “Oh here’s another Ingrid Michaelson clone.” Not that there’s anything wrong with that. But before you can consider whether the world really needs another Ingrid Michaelson, the guitars and drums kick open the door and you’re hit with a blast of cool fresh power pop. The song is propelled by the voice of Kacee Russell, who provides lead and harmony vocals. This is one of those voices that you hear for one verse and say, “Oh yeah, that’s a good one.” The sheer exuberance of the singing, and the tightness of the harmonies, are a wonder.
A couple of points to ponder: the band doesn’t employ a discernable bassist, and there’s no guitar solo where you expect the guitar solo to be. But I’m happy to dispense with both bassists and solos: the song works. I appreciate the stripped down arrangement; there’s no shortage of power, punch, or melody.
Late Night Cardigan is based in Memphis, a city that doesn’t get enough credit as a generative point for new music. The band comprises Kacee Russell (guitar, vocals, and lyrics), Stephen Turner (guitar and music), and Zach Mitchell (drums). ”Happy Truman” is from the band’s self-named five-song EP released today, on the first day of Spring. On their Bandcamp page, they describe their music as “sugar rush anxiety rock.” And on their Facebook page, they tell us, “Hey we have a bunch of songs about anxiety check it out.” But this isn’t shoegazing emo fare. It’s driving, guitar-based pop that happens to be about emotional conflicts.
Worth noting: the professionalism of the recording. The EP was recorded, mixed, and mastered by Jesse Mansfield at The Crypt. I’m not a sound engineer, but I’m pretty sure that getting those harmonies sounding tight isn’t easy. And the band members have obviously been in a studio before.
Bonus Track: Being an experienced stalker, I turned up this excellent song, “Losing Hope,” from Kacee’s solo EP, Big Ole World, released in 2014.