“Just a song at twilight before I go,” Sanford Arms’ Ben London sings on “Mercury”. The midtempo song builds to its chorus as if running uphill, telling of the end of summer and a romance. London’s voice strains at the dissolution and entropy of something that had seemed certain and real only a few months before but, like the weather, has chilled.
Departures and reversals fill the lyrics on Too Loud For The Snowman. The cosmic cowboy that moves in waltz time on Sanford Arms’ debut isn’t so much a distant relative of Jimmie Dale Gilmore as a drinking buddy of Joe Pernice. Former Alcohol Funnycar leader London possesses a downy voice and a wounded delivery that convey early-morning reckonings and late-night comforts.
The dozen songs are lushly crafted with idiosyncratic touches, playing as a remorse-laden song cycle with a clear-eyed observance that keeps the emotions in check. The lolling cadence and ghostly arrangements are built on Harris Thurmond’s lonesome guitar, Jeff Wood’s melodic bass, and Rob Dent’s loopy drums. Rob Witmer’s keys and accordion float through the soundscape, swelling to oceanic proportions and then ebbing back behind London’s voice.
Producer Tucker Martine (Modest Mouse, Bill Frisell) creates a simpatico environment for the compositions with just the right balance of space and compression to let them breathe while keeping them grounded. That’s the perfect twilight for Sanford Arms to hitch hook-laden pop melodies to folk-country cadences.