Jeremy Quentin has outdone himself. The folk singer-songwriter behind Small Houses has produced a record that not only outshines his previous efforts, but shows us the amount of diversity he’s gained as a songwriter. Still Talk; Second City, set to be released this month, is a journal log of Quentin’s travels. Recorded over a couple month stint in Atlanta, the record is a multi-layered masterpiece that still retains Quentin’s rustic charm that fans have come to love (myself included). Where North gave us a hint of a full band sound and Exactly Where You Wanted To Be was an album of whispered solo ballads, Still Talk; Second City takes off in the direction of Harvest-era Neil Young and Middle Brother folk-rock.
With tracks like “Staggers and Rise,” the lead single off the album, we’re able to envision picturesque 8 mm films of the young folk singer traveling the American roads earnestly searching for audiences to connect with and entertain — driven by country-twang guitar licks and a drum beat that makes the track move. Intermixed are ballads like “South, Southern” (presumably the most personal track on the album), which burrows into your chest and shakes your body like the Illinois winter. The conviction Quentin puts behind his poetic lyrics about weariness and loss is honest, un-commercialized, and true. Listening to his previous records, you can tell the road has worn him down a little more. You find yourself simultaneously worrying about the young, twenty-something troubadour and frustrated with the music industry fort the recognition this guy hasn’t gotten.
What surprises me about this album, however, is the experimentation with noise tracks and the synchronization of songs. “Introduction” and “Smileboy” flow into each other seemingly as one song, and then, with anthemic guitars and an angelic choir, dive into the lonesome short ballad “Still Talk.” It’s this kind of move that shifts away from Quentin’s previous efforts. Eight minute epics divided into three tracks, various monologues that flow through the entire album, Billy Corgan style guitar layering — all of these techniques are recent developments in the Small Houses sound. And what’s fantastic about them is that these new additions are not out of place; it’s almost as if Quentin delved into these different sounds and approaches knowing it would push himself that much further as a songwriter.
Still Talk; Second City may be the record that finally gets Small Houses out to a larger audience, seeing as the band has remained a hidden gem within America for a while now (which, to clarify, is due to the fact that they’re unknown to the public at large rather than simply overlooked). Recently, I introduced a friend of mine to Quentin’s music, and after listening to a few songs he became just as baffled as I am at how this guy isn’t more popular. We agreed that it was a sort of ‘tragedy’ that such honest music was not only going unheard, but that Quentin may only ever get to sing to the American roads and empty punk clubs, waiting for a big applause that may never come.
Still Talk; Second City is out February 10 on Cottage Recording Co.
Review by Trevor L. Sensor. Follow him on Twitter @trevorsensor.