New York – While Ultimate Painting may sound like some hipster sporting event, which millennials play over cold-brewed coffee, it is actually the name of a brilliant indie band, comprised of Jack Cooper and James Joare. The London duo can credit its collaboration to a kismety encounter; the two met while touring with respective other bands – Cooper with Mazes and Joare with Veronica Falls – and found an instant musical connection. The friends and bandmates have since put out an album, yearly, with the self titled Ultimate Painting in 2014 and Green Lanes in 2015 – both LPs garnered attention for having a controlled psych-garage-pop sound. Following the pattern of an annual album drop, Ultimate Painting released its third LP, Dusk, on September 30th via Trouble in Mind Records. Like the previous releases, Dusk maintains that perfected subdued sound with a seamless and palpable synergy between the two musicians.
However, Ultimate Painting’s latest release appears to have a more overarching dreamlike melancholia than the group’s previous work. While both peppy and ambient tracks are scattered throughout the first two records, keeping listeners on their toes by jumping between the upbeat and the subdued, Dusk almost floats contemplatively from one song to the next, as though the whole album exists in a cloud, with gentle lyrics on overdue bills, “they’re chewing me up,” drifting into a dedication to the early founding and ill-fated Rolling Stones member, Brian Jones, “I was pushed, from the ride / moving fast while I was flying high.”
In the past, direct and detached vocals have drawn comparisons to the Velvet Underground, but pieces of Dusk, with a casual gracefulness and the addition of Melissa Rigby on drums, has Ultimate Painting taking a turn towards more Belle and Sebastian-like territory. This is particularly evident with tracks like “Monday Morning, Somewhere Central,” which is both wistful and witty: “Monday morning, I saw you standing / Somewhere central, collar up abandoned / Head down, you didn’t see me / That’s fine, it wasn’t meant to be.” There’s a little bit of a lot in Dusk: Some Simon and Garfunkel, a smatter of Pink Floyd. Still, the album belongs distinctly to Ultimate Painting. It can be tied firmly to ‘60s rock/pop heritage thanks to its fuzzy recorded to tape format, the absence of any crazy synth or electronic components and literate lyrics, but there is a certain timeliness that distinguishes it and grounds it in the present. It feels urgent and unmistakably now.
The songs that make up Dusk are short, a consistency across all three albums. Each one is an easily digestible bite with chunks of understated lyrics, followed by mellow instrumental solos which allow for further reflection of the words. They are guitars and lyrics. Sometimes there’s a piano. Sometimes the vocals are almost whispered. A lot of it deals with running and hiding or being unable to run or hide, getting physically lost or, as in “Silhouetted Shimmering,” an expressed “I nearly lost my head,” in the mental sense. You want to listen to it while walking the streets. Or through a park. On a drizzly day. Or a windy, cloudy day with rain puddles at your feet. While wearing a scarf.
The five-minute closing track, “I Can’t Run Anymore,” contains the most textured and trippy guitar arrangement of the album. It is also the longest one, which also includes twelve-seconds of silence before a final minute of instrumentals that fade out. Compared to Ultimate Painting’s prior two LPs, Dusk looks like the very first stop a band takes after departing from its signature sound, with the potential to get way out there before returning back to its “roots.” Having a secure grasp on what it does well, Ultimate Painting has plenty of territory to confidently explore.
Dusk is available for purchase on CD and vinyl via Trouble in Mind Records, as well as for digital download on iTunes. Ultimate Painting is currently on a European and American tour in support of Dusk. A full list of tour dates can be found on the Ultimate Painting Facebook page.
Photo Credit: John Sturdy
She’s lived in Rome and California. Deeply nostalgic. Is interested in random thoughts and observations. Drinks coffee black. Drinks whiskey with ginger ale. Hates writing bios. Non-discriminatory about people and cupcakes.