Album: The Slaps – This Is My First Day at Drawing

Released on March 3rd on the always wonderful Galaxy Train, This Is My First Day At Drawing by U.S band The Slaps is a beautiful little artefact capturing something rather intimate and special across its seven songs. 

Released on cassette (with Galaxy Train’s trademark delicacy and detail in its packaging)  the album was recorded live, straight to 4 track (with film crew at hand to record proceedings) and it certainly captures that feeling of interconnecting spontaneity that small room performance can create. Of the seven songs featured, six are carefully constructed originals but the band allowed room for one cover, Sixto Rodriguez‘s Jane S Piddy, in commemoration and celebration of Rodriguez’s commitment to modesty, honesty, and simplicity, words which arguably could describe the album rather appositely too. 

The brush and breath of the room itself gathers in the spaces of the songs, the air as much an instrument as the coalescing strings. The chord progressions are rooted in folk but take on a meditative, hypnotic quality that feels almost American Primitive at times.  The music is beautifully played but has that instinctive rusticity that comes from live performance, the vocals possessing a laid-back, sleepy depth that feels lulling and wise, and occasionally wild and loose too. There’s something of early Willy Mason in the voices’ communal, hymnic croak and croon, which move between wry and heartfelt effortlessly.  

Nothing about Immortality begins things beautifully, and is a highlight on the album, its melody immediately arresting. Screaming Shaking has real charm too, possessed of a lovely shuffling back-porch drift and sway. Everything feels suitably close-miked with carefully strummed and picked steel strings building an intricate ambience, albeit one unafraid to let the light shine in to show the spaces. 

There is a feeling of communion to proceedings that speaks of folky, dawn-struck verandas, of friendship and togetherness. It is understated but also sophisticated – each melody unhurried but assertive. Josh Ritter springs to mind too in the songs’ gentle, country-folk nimbleness or perhaps that feeling of community found in the early recordings of Will Oldham, where delicacy and emotion so often collided, especially when the collected voices of the band entwine in pleasingly jarring pulchritude. You Are Your Neighbourhood’s hiccoughing yodel of voices at the song’s close, for example, is almost absurd in this way but deliciously full of fault-lines nevertheless.

This Is My First Day at Drawing is a perfect polaroid of an album, a snapshot, capturing something specific, direct, alive and beautiful, a glorious ramshackle moment. Thanks to The Slaps and to Galaxy Train, we can gladly return to this moment again and again.

Written by M. A. Welsh