Click to hear: “Welcome to Molly’s Jungle”
Last June, Foam Castles’ Night Crawling earned the distinction of being proclaimed Local Rock Album of the Summer in these pages. This year, Foam Castles returns with Molly’s Jungle, a strong contender for a second consecutive title, though with the new Brenda record scheduled to drop before the solstice, it’s too soon to bestow that imaginary award.
On the first two album, Foam Castles was basically Tyler Jackson and his girlfriend, Ritu Moondra, augmented by a few session guests. The couple moved to L.A. shortly after Night Crawling was released, and now Jackson is back in Maine.
Moondra’s contribution to Molly is limited to vocals on one track and some lyrics. Her singing is missed, but with the help of Brenda drummer D.J. Moore and guests like Jay Lobley (of Metal Feathers), Jackson largely makes up for the hole Moondra’s absence has left in Foam Castles’ sound.
Standout tracks include the galloping opener, “Welcome to Molly’s Jungle,” which features Lobley on organ and Jackson carving out some killer fuzz-tone guitar lines. “Garage From Slingblade” has the easygoing grace that made Night Crawling cuts like “Shipwrecked Shores” so perfect for sunny days in a lawn chair. The driving psych-rock of “Took It Home” really scores, as does the hazy indie-pop of “Fruit of Today.”
But on balance, moodier songs set the tone of Molly’s Jungle, like “Our Dark City,” on which Jackson seems to contemplate starting another Great Fire to get a certain someone’s attention. “I trust you’ll see the blazes when you check up on the north,” he sings, then adds offhandedly, “It’s not a threat, just an idea, you know / The dry docks of the port will go up first.”
“Myrtle Street,” a monologue set to eerie atmospherics a la Big Star’s “Big Black Car,” is a cool downer. Likewise “Down River,” an almost jazzy shuffle that follows it and leads to the languorous closer, “A Summer Wind.”
In the years to come, Molly’s Jungle will likely be considered the transitional record in Jackson’s oeuvre, the bridge to even greater music to come. We can hope for as much, anyway.
— Chris Busby
Foam Castles plays Thurs., May 13, with Gully and Theodore Treehouse, at Geno’s, 625 Congress St., Portland, at 9 p.m. Call 221-2382 for cover (21+). The band also plays Honey Clouds’ CD release party on Fri., May 28, at SPACE Gallery, 538 Congress St., Portland, at 9:30 p.m. Tix: $6 (18+).