With hindsight, Quilt’s sophomore effort Held In Splendor from 2014 was perhaps harshly tagged as “promising, if limited” as it clearly represented a step-up from the 2011 eponymous debut. The joint vocal harmonisation from Anna Fox Rochinksi, Shane Butler and John Andrews was of particular interest, a fresher ingredient added to the late 1960s psychedelic era sounds the band delve into, a genre that has been subject to much over-mining since the recent modern revival took hold.
The Boston quartet’s third album Plaza was done and dusted by the time the English summer came around last year. Aptly, much of the new material reflects summeriness, a vibe overwhelmingly indebted to those flowery, hedonistic days but what becomes evidently clear after a few listens of the album is the importance of song placement within the context of an entire album.
The first single to be released from the new collection was Eliot St., an older, revisited song about a malfunctioning relationship and it sits at track five, effectively closing the first side for vinyl enthusiasts. It’s enjoyable enough, a mesmerising male vocal sits alongside acoustic strummings and strings, hanging together nicely before Kochinski’s added vocal complements the other ingredients.
Eliot St. is far from the best moment on Plaza, though. The question is, if you write a belter of a psych-folk-pop track that far outweighs anything else you gather together for an album, where do you stick it? Second single Roller is such a song. Placed at track two on the ten track collection, you have to wonder how much of a premature ejaculation the song turns out to be. After a Blur like intro, it becomes a bouncy, poppy delight with a catchy chorus and dextrous bassline, with the gorgeously dusky tones of Kochinski on lead vocal; it doesn’t get any better than this.
Whilst Roller clearly stands head and shoulders above its companions, there are a handful of other songs that also prove memorable moments, and, most notably, Roller is sandwiched between two of the other top cuts from Plaza. Album opener Passersby is another revisited oldie, and a spellbinding highlight that again utilises the far more appealing vocal of Kochinski that this time occasionally ventures into vocal gymnastic territory (thankfully in a far less overbearing manner than, say, the more nauseas moments associated with the likes of that Carey woman). It’s all set to an uplifting, jangly guitar canvas, the extended instrumental section being of particular interest.
Searching For is another winner, fashioned from jamming sessions in Atlanta, where choppy guitars sit amongst upbeat spacey swirls. Kochinski takes a back seat this time for probably the best male vocal cut on the collection; imagine Moon Duo performing a short, jaunty number with a stereotypical 1960’s male vocal sat on top.
So, with the singles and two other best songs placed at the front end, how does the second half fare? In direct comparison, poorly. Side two opener, the strings-enhanced, stop-start Hissing My Plea is perhaps the best effort although hardly life changing. Something There is sugary bubblegum pop but ultimately rather limp, and the galloping beat of the Gotye-ish Padova is again mediocre. Centred on miscommunication, Your Island picks up slightly, musically sounding like a weak cut by The Brian Jonestown Massacre featuring a guest female vocal.
Whilst Held In Splendor was seen as major progress, Plaza as a whole feels more like a band treading water in the middle of a psychedelic ocean wondering which way the land lies. It would be lazy to arrive at the conclusion that it’s simply down to a gaping divide between those tracks lead by Rochinski’s sultry tones and those where the lead vocals come from her male companions, but it is strikingly obvious that those songs are where an appreciation for Plaza should probably begin.