All The Pretty Things…

(Author’s Note: About a month or so ago I found out that two of the most talented people I know would be moving to LA, I’ve met this kind of news before with a certain sadness mainly because I loathe LA. In this case it happens to be two of the founding members of one of my top five bands in town, Eric Palmer and Tristan Dede of Future Loves Past. I know this week I’ve been showcasing only videos, do not fear there is a video below, but due to timing and a “sort of” going away show tomorrow night, I thought I would do this instead. Over the course of now many years I’ve watched this band grow up tall and I’ve even had to adapt to their shifts in vision and gladly so. Both Palmer and Dede have assured me that they will continue to play shows here frequently and split the bands time between PHX and LA and I hope they stick to that. Many bands have told me the same thing, many of whom I’ve never seen again. Future Loves Past is a different kind of band and who knows, maybe they are what LA needs, maybe that’s where this much deserving band will find its big break. Either way this is more in tribute to them and my hopes that they don’t become strangers to the land that found them. I highly recommend you find yourself at Last Exit Live on Friday, January 31st for this very special show joined by B.O.T.S., Webs and The Vanjacks, if for no other reason than to wish these young sons the best of luck out on the coast. If not, look for them at the Yucca Tap Room on February 28th. Below is the full version of my review of their debut album All The Luscious Plants published in edited form in the October 2013 issue of JAVA Magazine. This was definitely one of my favorite albums of last year and the first one that played in my head this year. Below that you can see the amazing video for “Grow Up Tall.” Now lets hope we don’t leave 2014 without a copy of Our Solar System in our hands and another release show on the level of what was arguably last years greatest album extravaganza, Lushfest.)

Future Loves Past Surrounds Itself With All The Luscious Plants

Sometimes there are problems when you run so close to a band that you have seen them through a transformative process of years that’s happened seemingly so quickly, you have problems comprehending or appreciating what they have become. Sometimes you judge an early mix before you get the masters and sometimes, so much has changed that you have to readjust your perceptions to realize the value in this growth of time and experience. So is the case with my love for Future Loves Past. The first time I met Eric Palmer and Tristan DeDe they were in a band called Indias after an amazing and possibly their last show at Yucca Tap Room, they mentioned they were going to change up the band soon and change the name. After one false start (Head, Shoulders, Knees and Toes) they finally became Future Loves Past and for the last four years they have been blowing my mind with their mix of psychedelic rock, soulful funk and even explorations into Carribean sounds. Their live shows and sparse releases in this time were testaments to this amazing band that would transform even the tightest hipster crowd into a thralling mass of sweaty dance machines.

By the time Future Loves Past had collected their recording costs from a successful Kickstarter Campaign to the point at which they recorded their debut album, three things had occurred: They had lost Mike Anderson as a guitarist, they had chosen Bob Hoag as their producer and they had already constructed and performed their second album—all three things taking them in a new direction. I have to admit that when I received the initial mixes I thought that it was heavy with disco horseshit and I wept openly. Since that day, however, I have seen Future Loves Past play live about ten times, using the new arrangements from the album, I have gotten used to seeing them without Anderson and they completely mixed and mastered the tracks. I also went to the two day release party for the album called Lushfest and all of this made me realize a few things. First, never judge a recording before its mastered and second, respect the artist’s vision when they choose to move on from where you are at. I now realize that in the scheme of things, Indias was like the caterpillar, while the Future Loves Past that belted out blues injected psychedelic jams like “Mountain” and “Outsiders” was merely the cocoon, all only to reveal a beautiful butterfly that has taken flight with a brilliant indie-pop sheen that shimmers amidst their vast array of influences in the musical sunshine. This is what All The Luscious Plants is about, it documents nearly all your favorite songs from Future Love Past’s early career and polishes them for a college ready record that invites the listener into their world with open arms—and once those listeners get the chance to see them live, the deal will be sealed.

The album starts off with an almost meditative pastoral riff, before the first groove hits you and “Pretty Things” launches in your soul and while there certainly are some disco keyboard flourishes found here, the swirl inside you until the exit with a smile. While lyrically the song seems to be a slight attack on material and physical attachment to possessions and perhaps the aesthetics of a given relationship, the result is nothing but a thing of positive beauty. There are so many moments inside this song that make me shake my head and grin, it’s a stunning start (the hypnotic bridge for instance, or the bad ass bass at 3:07 or…I could go on and on). “Why so loyal to the one that hurts you all along, I guess you think it’s easier, to let someone make all those tough decisions, you know it’s true, you know it’s true, all the pretty things around you can only take you so far away…” wow…just, wow! The groove goes on the first single from the album, “Grow Up Tall” is next and it has to be Sean Wintrow’s finest moment of writing on the album. While there is easily seven singles to be found on this album, it’s easy to hear why this was the first choice—it’s a goddamned majestic piece of timeless music that could have been made in any era since 1968. The harmonies are wonderful, the guitars are hook heavy, the bass is brilliant and Enrique Naranjo’s drums are an explosive showcase unto themselves. There is a serious plant allegory going on here, but it seems to be a lesson lyrically in patience, acceptance, growth, freedom and love. “If it grows up tall, if it grows at all, then there it will be, to suffer winter, spring, summer, fall…we should never be grounded as a tree, buried in the hollow, we‘ve got to be free.” It should be mentioned that Eric Palmer’s voice on this number is particularly perfect.

While “And I Do” is a lovely, sentimental number with a Calypso vibe to it, but there seems to be a bit too much keyboard-laden disco flourishes wrapped around and through it. It has an odd collision of the Carribean meets the New Romanticism of 1981 going on—live, this song is a fantastic, elegant, swooning and hypnotic number, but on the album, there are moments that feel jarring. I’m not sure if my mindset should be dancing on an island in the sun or holding hands with my sweetheart at the roller rink. Lyrically it is probably the most touching number on the entire album. It’s not that I hate it, I just don’t know what to make of it.

What follows is probably the best run of songs on this album and nearly any other album I can recall. Perhaps I think this because it consists of three numbers that have been in their live set for some time and they are engrained in my very soul, or perhaps it’s because this trio is the freaking centerpiece upon which the entire album revolves. “Mean Love” appears in far different form on their debut EP from 2011 and while it was great then, the new recording is like an atomic blast that leaves the shadow of its initial form burned into the sidewalk. This has always been one of, if not my favorite song by Future Loves Past and one I was happy to see make the cut to be re-recorded for All The Luscious Plants. Palmer sings “I am prepared to fall inside for a little while, only for a little while, ‘cause I live in a dream, I’m just a young one, that doesn’t mean it’s not love, for a little while” with conviction and a sense of understated viciousness. This song really has it all though, some of the best guitar grooves in the world, a killer bass line and once more Naranjo’s drums sound like they may tear the world apart. It seems that “Seekers” could be the only choice to follow up this powerhouse and finish the first half of the album. This version of the song is SO powerful that it reverberates through my mind for days, the recording is perfection, flawless layers of harmonies to create a sense that a decidedly reggae drenched tune meets with a gospel choir somewhere in the deep south, then decides to vacation in California. I can’t describe it any other way, that’s how its sound feels to me. It sounds fucking HUGE and the multi-layered chorus is so aurally addictive it’s impossible to escape. In its wake follows “Cher Ami” (formerly known as “Pidgeons”), yet another crowd favorite, beginning with a fantastic drum roll that heads straight to the groove and some of the greatest lyrics found on the album in a snarling FLP sensibility (“I see all of mankind looking down at the world around me, no, no, I can’t get no respect from mankind…all the punk ass kids will kick you around”). Even as I write this article, it’s damned difficult not to dance in my chair as it plays over and over again—dance music for the emotionally confused and intellectually attuned. Brilliant every step of the way, with yet another bridge filled with harmonies. “We’re just bitter cause we can’t fly, we can try but there’s no guarantees, I take back everything I said, I was young, just a young boy!” Amazing.

I could swear that when Palmer and Wintrow wrote “Lupa” they mentioned it was going to go on their “Spirit Animal” album (already planning a third?). Nevertheless, it’s a welcome addition to this debut album and some have said its one of their new favorites. The bass on this song is what holds the entire thing together; I’m not sure if it’s Wintrow or Palmer powering that thing in this case, but it’s simply fantastic. Live, this song is absolutely transcendental and on the album it’s a great groove–lyrically its pure metaphorical madness of a woman who is a predatory wolf that is as much worshipped as feared, I can practically see Palmer grinning while he sings it. “Fear of Growing” is a seriously heavy disco number, but in this case it doesn’t appear to be trying to be anything else—I mean this one immediately evokes disco ball nights, polyester suits, feathered hair, and the whole damn shebang. This would have fit perfectly into the soundtrack for “That 70s Show” and could still find a home in some movie reflecting the era of wall to wall shag carpeting and airbrushed vans. Skate a little lower now! It also contains the lyric from which the album title is derived and I bet it was a complete blast to record—also, from his contributions to this album, I’m convinced Sean Wintrow is slightly obsessed with plants.

The last stretch of the album is the one-two punch of “I’m Free” and “Kiss” and there could be no finer finale. Beginning with the fattest bass line on the whole damn thing, a cool synth sequence and a snarling vocal, Future Loves Past really brings it home on “I’m Free”, by the time the guitar kicks your ass a minute in you’ve lost your place in time and space. It is one of their greatest grooves, live or on the record, this song is simply immaculate, with enough funk and solid gold soul to blow your mind over and over again and it takes less than three and half minutes to do so. “…I’ve got the power to make you high, I just opened my eyes wider, I’ve got to open up to be free, I’m here and there and everywhere, everywhere, got to open up to be free, when you die you come home to me, when you die you come home to me, follow me and you can be free…”and then the guitar and drums explode. Damn, it’s just one hell of a jam. “Kiss” knocks the album out of the ballpark and serves as the perfect closing number—a straight out FLP classic rocker, still imbued with a 1970s sensibility and one hell of an infectious dance inciting tune. I also adore how such a rocking tune can also clearly be such a truly beautifully romantic love song, which is a pretty difficult thing to pull off by any measure. “I don’t want to get myself in too deep” is Palmers refrain throughout, but the final admission is indeed that “Love is just too strong, you’ll never get back down.” If nothing else sums up my perception of All the Luscious Plants, it’s that right there. I didn’t want to get myself in too deep, but my love of Future Loves Past is just too strong and now I can’t get back down.

All The Luscious Plants is a stunning debut album that will remain in my own personal heavy rotation for some time to come. When Future Loves Past appeared on the scene they seemed like they were set to become the new neo-hippie psychedelic messiahs, but they have moved far beyond that to become visionary masters of the aural arts. The guitar work of Tristan DeDe, the songwriting and basswork of Eric Palmer and Sean Wintrow, the gargantuan drumming of Enrique Naranjo and, in their live set, the harmonies, keys and percussion of Sarah Hibner all coalesce into something damn near magical. While All The Luscious Plants took four years to come to fruition, the next year of waiting for its follow up, Our Solar System will seem excruciating…but I have every reason to believe it will be out of this world.