Slingshot Dakota’s Heavy Banding LP | cover photo by Em Dubin | courtesy of the artist
Slingshot Dakota deepen their sound on impressive new album Heavy Banding
Bethlehem-based indie punks Slingshot Dakota have gotten even more ambitious on their new album Heavy Banding, and the payoff is strong.For more than ten years, the wife and husband duo Carly Comando and Tom Patterson have been bringing melodic and lyrical sensibilities from pop and pop punk into the soundworld of current indie and alt rock using only a keyboard and a drum set. Now more than ever, their chosen combinations of thundering drums and fuzz-washed synth sounds often recall the thick textures and rough-around-the-edges mixes on recent records by Mitski and Waxahatchee. Other touchstones could be fellow Pennsylvanians like Kississippi (with whom Slingshot Dakota toured in 2016) or Cayetana.
Comando’s heavy keyboard parts on Heavy Banding sometimes feel like a substitute for electric bass and guitar, but sometimes she makes them into something altogether different. Her keys twinkle like starlight in the hushed opening bars of “Blood Villain”, and later, once the drums enter, clang like church bells. Throughout the album, Patterson’s relentless drumming involves plenty of references to Travis Barker and other essential pop punk musicians, but he also takes care to shape his drum parts specifically to support Comando’s keys and voice as a kind of counterpoint in their most inventive moments together — like the chorus on “Premeditated”, one of the tightest on the album.
The songwriting on Heavy Banding — whose title indicates thick stripes of contrasting colors — displays Slingshot Dakota’s flare for drama, small-scale and large. Opening track “Moon” showcases Comando’s voice, first belting over deep piano chords and then later whispering sweetly in her highest register, before the track explodes halfway through upon the arrival of Patterson’s drums. Beware of a second drum explosion during the following track “Blood Villain”, which features some of the album’s hardest-hitting instrumental playing and most memorable vocals.
Full of dramatic turns like these, along with intense balladry on “Day After Christmas” and “People Pleaser”, Heavy Bandingplays out like a staged musical or a song cycle. The track sequencing greatly contributes to the experience of the album, as romantic intensity deepens from one track to the next until the penultimate track “Lungs” finds Comando at her most desperate and broken. “North Shore”, the closing track, then begins with several voices singing uneasy ooh‘s in harmony, like a twisted lullaby. Comando brings in soft piano chords and then builds to a climax — she wails “Promise you’ll visit me!” at the top of her range, first alone, then amid crashing cymbals and keyboard, until the track ends with a cliff hanger.
Although fans might presume that the real life romance between Comando and Patterson provides inspiration for the narratives of romantic struggle that run through Heavy Banding, the lyrics’ references to love are usually unspecific. (However, anecdotes from the couple’s sex life that Comando proudly posts on the band’s Twitter page are unabashedly specific by contrast.) Nonetheless, the two are unafraid of presenting their relationship as a central element of their work together as musicians. The most impressive song on the album, “Weird Like Me”, also contains some of the most touching moments. “Pressed your feet on my arm like a tattoo,” Comando sings over a keen piano part in the first verse. Throughout the song, she repeats, “I hope you’re weird like me. I hope you’re weird like me, like me.” A few times she reminds her partner (or her fans), “There is no normal. Just grow into who you want to.”
Slingshot Dakota’s attitude on Heavy Banding is brighter and prouder than on their last album, 2016’s Break, and certainly just as ardent. Their compositional ideas have grown more detailed; their intense emotionality has deepened, and may continue to deepen in the future. If Comando and Patterson make anything undeniably clear in their records and their performances, it is that they continue to love each other uncompromisingly and continue to love making music together through all their struggles. The cover of Heavy Banding shows Comando about to steal a kiss from her husband as if there is nothing she wants more. On Friday, she tweeted, “Consider this our WE’RE FUCKING HERE 2 STAY album �ĥ”
Slingshot Dakota will be on tour throughout the summer, beginning with a Philadelphia show on Thursday, May 30th at Everybody Hits. Heavy Banding came out on Friday, May 24th on Community Records, and the band will appear on The Key Studio Sessions this week.