Andy R. (né Andy Rauworth) and Craig Nice (né Craig Fleischman) say they have been playing music together since they were 15. In 2010, nearly a decade later, the duo released a 7” entitled Out/Don’t… under the moniker Gauntlet Hair and created a swarm of buzz around their stabbing, reverbed avant-pop.
And then those bastards made us wait another year before releasing their self-titled debut LP. But damn, was it worth the wait. The Denver-based duo has an uncanny knack for making peculiar music accessible. Although Andy’s lyrics are reverb-damaged and difficult to understand most of the time, you can’t help straining your ears to catch the words and sing (or at least hum) along, while Craig has admitted Beyoncé to be an influence on his beats, which is evident on the buoyant, dance-inducing percussion of the record.
The album begins with its first single, “Keep Time,” a jabbing pop track that hooks its listener with electronic drumbeats and staccato vocals and guitar riffs, making it an ideal opener. From there, the record falls into a myriad of influences. Whether it be the punk-inspired “Mop It Up,” or the 90s grunge-tinged “My Christ,” to the meandering “Top Bunk,” the twosome gracefully interweave these styles with its own experimental pop core.
Gauntlet Hair’s shining moment may be “Lights Out,” (no pun intended). Not only is this the longest track on the record, but it’s the most dynamic as well. During its 5:04 duration, the song changes direction three times. It begins with a tinny electro-beat, and gradually guitar and vocals come in, creating an unusual electronic yet whimsical environment. This goes on for a good half of the song, and at around the 2:45 mark, the duo breaks into an instrumental bridge, and the music shifts into a heavier, bass-driven sound as Andy belts out yawping vocals, which smoothly transitions into a beautiful, keyboard-based outro for the last thirty seconds. The movement and style of this track is reminiscent of avant-pop gurus Animal Collective, but with a more raw, rockier feel that only Andy and Craig could achieve.
The duo leaves us with “Shout in Tongues,” a fantastic, meandering song that calms you after the last eight jabbing tracks, and urges you to hit play and start the cycle all over again.