The Features – Exhibit A

What I Think of When I Think of This Artist (part 1)

The Features (at least at the time of this album) boasted some truly excellent band member names:  Parrish Yaw, Rollum Haas, Roger Dabbs, and along for the ride, Matt Pelham. Also cool – they were from Sparta, Tennessee. Just a bunch of bored rural kids who found purpose in music. Dabbs, Yaw, and Pelham went to middle school together in Sparta. Dabbs and Pelham started a band and both eventually went to college in Murfreesboro; Yaw attended college in nearby Cookeville and soon after joined the band. A few personnel moves later found Hass taking over drum duties in 1998. They all dropped out of school and recorded and toured and were signed to Universal within a few years. Exhibit A came out in 2004.

What I Think of This Album

Matt Pelham sings like he is a hair’s breadth away from absolutely losing his shit. Somehow he rides this wave of intensity without ever losing his balance. Frankly, it would be a lot less interesting if he just gave over and started screaming; it is much more compelling to listen to his impassioned delivery and marvel at how it hints at a monumental effort to keep it together. What makes it all the more perverse is that the half-crazed delivery is often in the service of songs of surprisingly sentimentality:  “The Way It’s Meant to Be” is a song of paternal devotion to an infant; “The Idea of Growing Old” foretells the simple satisfaction of entering dotage with a partner. 

You know what I love? I love a song about loving music. Granted, I can’t think of an example right now, but I am sure they exist and that I own some of them. “Blow It Out” brims with joy as Pelham cleverly recounts how listening to vinyl replenishes his soul. I get it, Matt. “Here I found that I’m alright.”

Just as critical to the band’s sound as Pelham’s vocals is the keyboard work of Yaw. The songs are sturdy and melodic but Yaw’s lines somehow both soften the tunes and also add an otherworldly atmosphere that elevate them above even very good garage rock. 

I can’t say that every track is a standout but many are, including the borderline scary “Exorcising Demons” (sort of like Clinic if they wore trucker caps instead of hospital scrubs), the self-parody of “Me & the Skirts,” the ambiguously menacing but also romantic title track, and the closer, “Circus.” The rest are merely somewhere from good to very good. Overall, though, this is a goddamn blast to listen to.

Speaking of fun names, the main producer was Craig Krampf (who has an oddly mainstream resumé) and Mike McCarthy, who has worked with Spoon and …And You Will Know Us By the Trail of Dead.

The Best Thing About This Album

“Blow It Out” is one of my favorite songs ever.

Release Date

September, 2004

The Cover Art

Average. Sort of messy but at least it’s colorful (I like the blue).

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Proudly powered by WordPress | Theme: Baskerville 2 by Anders Noren.

Up ↑