You know you need it: Every Thursday, 45s and 40s hooks you up with what’s spinning on our turntables this weekend–virtual or otherwise–keeping you in the know of everything new and noteworthy–it’s Now Spinning. If you have something dope you think we’d like, drop us a line.
Before releasing Split Figure last October, the California quintet Line & Circle had only released three singles throughout the course of three years. It’s a surprise that they’ve gotten little mainstream notice, considering the quality of their music. The band makes wistful guitar pop that builds off of the lyrics of lead singer Brian Cohen–brilliant melodies and intricate guitar-work straight out of the Peter Buck playbook.
Indeed, the band that Line & Circle most recalls is R.E.M.–specifically their storied early ’80s releases such as Murmur and Reckoning. Line & Circle don’t quite sound as any other band out there in 2016 and it’s to their credit that they have a unique take on such well-tread ground. The songs on Split Figure feel at home next to other indie releases of 2015, but could just as easily fit on a college radio playlist in 1986.
“Roman Ruins,” the album’s lead track, finds the band at their most R.E.M.-inspired. The song was first released as a single, and then on the soundtrack to the IFC sitcom Maron, all the way back in 2012. Re-recorded in indistinguishable form for Split Figure, the band channeled some prime Murmur real estate with a cryptic set of lyrics and a killer instrumentation. There’s no flashy guitar solos or vocal showcases here. Every part of the album feels as if it were intricately crafted and it all fits together like a jigsaw puzzle.
There’s not a bad song on Split Figure either. The album gallops through its 38-minute length with melodies galore. Songs like “Like a Statue,” “Mine is Mine” and “Out of Metaphors” should be catnip to those who love a good melody, a soaring chorus and a jangly guitar riff.
The best song on the record, “Mesolithic,” has a sun-kissed vocal from Cohen, while the band play tightly around him. Keyboardist Brian Egan feels like the band’s secret weapon on most of the album, and particularly on this song. The keyboards are never up high in the mix of any of their songs, but they provide a ambient cushion for the rest of the track to sit on top of.
Split Figure is a tremendous jangle pop record that recalls the best of the genre’s past while maintaining Line & Circle’s own unique voice. It’s one of the best under-the-radar releases of 2015 and hopefully it continues to gain the attention it deserves.