EZTV, “High in Place”
High in Place
Though it may be little consolation to the old, and certainly no consolation to the dead, retrospective cult fandom has become fetishized in a weird way. Particularly within the field of music, the Skip Spences of the world have this allure of the misunderstood—they were great at everything in their day except timing (and maybe marketing)—but they’ve also tended to die in circumstances of relative obscurity and tragedy, late-period appreciation be damned. No widespread public mourning. No barrage of In Memoriam tweets, metaphorically speaking. Simply articles in the papers, somber record-playing at home—that sort of thing. Which is to say: belated cult status is a hell of a lot better than nothing, but it’s not something to bank on. And for a band like EZTV, they deserve more than that.
The Brooklyn power-pop trio have two albums to show for their two years of existence, and wouldn’t you know it, they’re currently batting a thousand. Down to the lettering on the cover, last year’s Calling Out was an astoundingly realized debut from a band that, by their own account, only first came together to audition (and subsequently fail said audition) for a spot as the touring band for Jason Pierce’s modern-day incarnation of Spiritualized. And while that’s a funny origin story on its own, it’s particularly amusing in consideration of the music that EZTV have gone on to make: tight, intricate, and laid-back rock. There’s no floating in space here, ladies and gentlemen. No, no. This is very grounded music indeed.
As such, the appropriately titled High in Place is not a typical sophomore release. Instead of the all-too-common route of taking the successful formula from a debut and unnecessarily expanding upon it, members Ezra Tenenbaum, Shane O’Connell, and Michael Stasiak have instead simply refined what made their first album great. They’ve taken the formula and made it purer and clearer in vision.
Right out the gate, opening track and lead single “High Flying Faith” is the best song the band has ever put out, and one of the year’s best tracks overall. It’s a defining statement of intent, further authenticated by an undersigning from Jenny Lewis, who provides backing vocals on the track. Her distant, siren-esque contributions haunt perfectly over Tenenbaum’s lyrics about getting the runaround from a flame (“I’d rather that you cut me down / Than leave me hangin’ here”), while the Roger McGuinn-ian twelve-string part lifts the pair into a swirl of emotion, never out of control, though still careening in directions unforeseen.
That song was said to be lyrically inspired by Skip Spence’s “Broken Heart,” which makes sense given Spence and Tenenbaum’s shared appreciation of the lesser of two evils (“Better to be rolled in oats / Than from the roll be dropped,” Spence sings), but hopefully the comparisons stop there. High in Place doesn’t need to sit around accruing brownie points for obscurity before it can be fully appreciated. EZTV exist in the here and now, and they’re ready for their close-up.