Welcome to Mild High Club. The first rule of the club is to play sunny L.A.-inspired chords that melt into lazy jazz rock.
This group is the work of multi-instrumentalist/mastermind Alex Brettin. According to the Club’s Bandcamp page, Brettin majored in jazz studies in Chicago and soon moved to California to connect with groups such as Ariel Pink and Silk Rhodes. Brettin is also working on his own LP with Stone Throw Records.
Mild High Club rolled into Sioux Falls Thursday night and played a great show at Total Drag Records with Kansas City’s Shy Boys and local group Thought Loops.
They began their set with “Club Intro” from their first album “Timeline.” This instrumental is a prime example of their genre-crossing musical chops. It’s part lo-fi, somewhat psychedelic yet still jazz-inspired.
The album name itself is representative of their sound; it evokes bits and pieces of a musical timeline pulling from all sorts of influences from the last 50 years. “Timeline” also relates to the tempo of the music. It feels like a wall of sound perfectly timed as though each note is the ticking of a clock.
No track is worth skipping from the album, although they’re all somewhat similar in theme. Highlights include “Note to Self,” which has delightful beginning chords and shows off Brettin’s muted vocal style.
Then there’s the understated “Elegy” infused with bits of piano. “Weeping Willow” is perfectly chill, almost hypnotic if it hadn’t been for the subtle notes of percussion. “You And Me” is a personal favorite as it builds to the opening lyrics.
“Skiptracing” is their latest album. While “Timeline” was less about lyrics and more about showcasing the simplicity of their sound, this new release is all about the theme and building more complex layers with a new twist on that same sound.
To understand this idea, listen to any track, especially “Homage,” which must be an homage to some of the experimental electronic sounds of the 80s. The album is supposed to be something like a detective story investigating the realm of American music subculture through time, and it sounds like Mild High Club captured that idea brilliantly.
Before Mild High Club, Kansas City-based Shy Boys played a great set. I was elated to hear that Shy Boys would return once again to Total Drag ever since I heard their frenzied single “Life is Peachy.” My heart raced when I heard them open their set with this surf punk jam and I couldn’t resist headbanging along to the beat. Give it a listen.
Besides the great opener, Shy Boys played some more touching songs such as “And I Am Nervous,” which brings all band members to sing along at one point. The hook of the song is memorable about halfway through when each and every shy boy is no longer shy about jamming along. Then there was “Keeps Me on My Toes” which has a fun, singable chorus.
Shy Boys was a great middle set between the lazy excellence of Mild High Club and the dreaminess of Thought Loops. I saw Thought Loops last with Broncho on Aug. 30, and they have tightened up their act a bit since then. They are more familiar with their music and have a pretty compact set list that showcases their sound. I’m still waiting on them to record something bigger, though.
All in all, it was another night in the books at Total Drag. Rock on, Sioux Falls!