The Besties – Home Free

What I Think of When I Think of This Artist

I don’t remember where I found this or what made be pick it up, but I am glad I came across it. That’s the kind of experience you lose with the disappearance of brick-and-mortar record stores. I don’t really know much about the Besties. They sort of straddled the line between twee and indie-pop, and were from Brooklyn by way of Florida (unless I got that backwards – they are from Florida but then relocated to New York, is what I mean). I’m a sucker for this kind of music – fun, easygoing, tuneful as fuck, with a shagginess to the musicianship and overall feel. I play this album, their second and last (the first one, Singer, is not nearly as good, I am sad to report), a lot.

What I Think of This Album

This album lives and dies on the intertwined vocals of keyboardists and childhood friends Kelly Waldrop and Marisa Bergquist, who imbue these hyper-melodic songs with grace and charm. Their mostly sweet and slightly sour singing elevates this above more run-of-the-mill twee pop, consistent with the lyric in “Julie Jane” that declares “We’re not typical at all.” With live drummer Frank E. Korn in the fold (Singer was recorded with a drum machine), and the twin keyboards providing the melody, bass line, color, harmony, and countermelody, the Besties charge their way through a set of extremely agreeable tunes, mostly.

“Right Band/Wrong Song” sets the tone, with fuzzy keyboard sounds driving the Waldrop/Bergquist duet; “come back to where you know you ought to be,” indeed. “What Would Tim Armstrong Do?” has nothing to do in form or content with the Rancid frontman, but the song is still eminently hummable. “Helgafell” similarly seems largely unrelated to its Icelandic namesake (though there are scattered references to legends, gods, and fairytales), and instead seems a vaguely threatening song of unrequited love. Slower songs like “Nightwatch” and “Birthday” are less enjoyable, despite some consistently nice vocals. “The Gothenburg Handshake” is a highlight, though, with wonderful singing, great piano line, and frantic drumming; also maybe the best song to reference Ypsilanti, but I am willing to keep an open mind.

“M.F.D.” and “St. Francis” both add drama and yearning successfully, in a way the slower songs are unable to. “Julie Jane” is another fun ditty. “Man Vs. Wild” may be the most accomplished yet understated song on this album, with a lovely melody, cool guitar solo, fine keyboard playing, and great backing harmonies. Self-mythologizing closer “79 Lorimer” – a punchy keyboard-driven ode to the band’s home and rehearsal space – is the sound of people doing what they love even as they recognize its absurdity and short lifespan, and really, fuck you if you begrudge that to this loveable foursome.

The Best Thing About This Album

While I think “The Gothenburg Handshake” is a great song, I really love “79 Lorimer.” The chorus gets me every time (especially the reference to the “metal band that plays upstairs”).

Release Date

November, 2008

The Cover Art

This doesn’t work at all. It suggests a hippie coastal vibe that is not consistent with the sounds on the record; I suppose it’s a callback to the singers’ Gulf Coast origins, but still. The color scheme is unappealing, and the composition is sort of a mess.

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