'Scrape And Cuss' Review: Moviola return with smooth Americana record that celebrates growing older and wiser
'Scrape and Cuss' intertwines rich soul, lush harmonies and rootsy tunes into a blissed-out lo-fi experience that has come to define Moviola's trademark easy-listening Americana
After a 13-year hiatus, Columbus-based lo-fi indie veterans Moviola are back with a new 12-song album titled 'Scrape And Cuss'.
Having stayed dormant except for a handful of live dates over the last 13 years, Moviola have launched their comeback refreshed and renewed, looking to inhabit that creative space that was such a special part of their lives over a decade ago.
In the band's own words, 'Scrape And Cuss' is a celebration of friendship, lost love and growing older and wiser together. At a deeper level, it's also about cherishing the small pleasures of life and the kind of unspoken confidence and comfort that comes with playing music together for decades.
This record also features musicians Little Brother (saxophone), Eve Searls (backing vocals), Paul Wilkinson (piano), Jason Ferrell (trumpet) and Billy Wolfe (saxophone).
"We poured our hearts into Moviola for 13 years. So much so that we took the next 13 off. It feels like we’re starting another 13-year cycle. Just like the Cicadas," says Jake Housh who's helming the console again for this record.
Having worked as a video producer for 20 years, Housh decided to produce this album out of his home studio. With 'Scrape And Cuss', Moviola are pooling more than two decades' worth of experience into a heady mix of diverse and versatile tunes.
This diversity is especially apparent in the vocal department - numerous members of the band perform lead vocals on different songs, but they've still managed to form this singular identity and sound that's hard to pin down, even though it's instantly recognizable.
The album opens with 'Let The Saw Do The Work', a breezy number about letting things happen organically, featuring Jerry Dannemiller and Jake Housh on shared vocal duties. The song keeps a cheery uptempo beat in the verses while slipping into a half-time, drawn-out pace in the turns — "Just let it grow natural," the lyrics remind us.
This tempo shift juxtaposed with Moviola’s super chill vibe makes for a very interesting dynamic that captures the listener immediately. Paul Wilkinson does a great piano accompaniment and backs the rest of the band superbly.
Jason Ferrell’s trumpet lines will have you dancing in the up-tempo parts while lilting dreamily in the tempo breakdown sections. Along with charming storytelling, this is a fantastic opener and shows that Moviola hasn’t lost any of their famed creative spark.
'Evaporate' is a subtle, contemplative Americana number with drummer Greg Bonell taking over vocal duties. "Saving my strength for the trip back home / Trying to figure a way / You can ride it off as if it never happened / I felt like I could evaporate / I was gone, yes I was gone."
With an arrangement that is reminiscent of early Beatles and The Who, the song gallops along with Bonnell's rhythm, with his charismatic voice giving us company on the sun-kissed trail.
Guitarist Scotty Tabachnick takes up the mic in 'Cobalt Blue', the third track off the album. The tempo is more laidback as compared to 'Evaporate' and Tabachnick effortlessly leans into his country-style vocal delivery.
Housh adds a gentle, sustained organ into the mix, and coupled with the acoustic guitar chords, it makes for a rootsy, nostalgic song about a native son returning home to his bell-jar farm.
The title track 'Scrape And Cuss' is a quintessential Moviola yarn about a young man who was supposed to amount to something in life. It features slightly overdriven guitars and an earworm of a trumpet refrain courtesy of Ferrell along with a quasi-marching style beat.
Jake Housh is back on vocal duties while Wilkinson plays the piano parts in a twinkling bluesy style. This fun, bouncing track will resonate with Moviola aficionados thanks to its sparkling tones and indelible harmonies. Housh’s playfulness is evident throughout, especially in how his voice trails off towards the end.
'I Know It Won’t', the fifth track on the album kicks in with a driven guitar riff and bassist Ted Hattemer’s elegant lines as he takes over vocal duties, talking about how he "always wanted to be the one."
Showcasing the band's colorful sonic palette, the song strays into rock 'n' roll territory and features two short guitar solos. The beauty of Moviola’s music is that they know how to strike the perfect balance between their instruments without overdoing anything and the band remains in the pocket throughout.
Twangy guitar strains and tremolo wails herald 'Prison Cash', the next laidback track on the album. Jerry Dannemiller is back behind the mic for this number that pairs an emotive guitar with a combination of sparse organ hums, acoustic guitar strums and piano accompaniment.
The pithy lyrics include "Prison cash / Crown of thorns / 40 times around the horn / Let me dim the lights down low," but the guitars do most of the talking in this song, painting landscapes of Americana in a signature Moviola hue.
Jake Housh gets back on lead vocal duties for 'Middletown', a slow, dreamy number about a small-town pageant queen's life path. The lush organs and warm guitars practically sing on this track, perfectly complementing the vocal melody and then some.
Housh, in his laidback manner, breathes life into this number which also sees an excellent acapella section towards the end.
'Evergreen Hornet' follows in the rock n roll tradition, serving up warm overdriven guitars and singing lines that feature some excellent harmonization by the band. Meanwhile, Tabachnick’s lead vocals and picturesque lyrics talk about robins, hornets, and dancing bears.
Movoila plays to its strength of having a band full of singers and the melting medley of harmonies and melodic lines from the instruments prove to be a delicious treat for the ears.
'Caught In The Rain' sees bassist Hattemer returning on vocal duties. Like 'I Know It Won’t', Hattemer’s bass line drives the track as it tells the story of the protagonist and his partner being caught in the rain and sharing tender moments worth reflecting on, despite the years slipping away.
A short and sweet number, this song is compact but does not compromise on the band sounding nice and full.
'Hollow Boon' is a step up in tempo and energy and features Tabachnick on vocals. "Got a ways to go / Taking chances, God only knows / Some days slowly blow over / The locals kneel for four-leaf clovers" goes the charming introductory lines.
With chiming guitar melodies that run in parallel and feed off Tabachnick’s lines, the song is relatively easy on the ears and pretty entertaining throughout.
The energy from 'Hollow Boon' gets amped up further as we enter a vintage rock n roll aesthetic in 'Disaster', with drummer Bonnell helming the mic once again.
A walking bass line and a steady beat keep the emphasis on the vocals as Bonnell talks about various scenarios and croons, "If that seems like disaster, well, everything in its time."
Jerry Dannemiller returns on the mic for the final song 'Heart's Content', a track that seems to be a tip of the hat to the long, eventful musical journey of Moviola.
With a dreamy guitar solo and the sparkling backing of Housh’s piano and the organ, 'Heart's Content' is a simple, elegant song to wrap up the album with, and ensures the listener has had their fill.
All in all, 'Scrape And Cuss' intertwines rich soul, lush harmonies, and rootsy elements of country, blues, rock and jazz tunes. It ultimately makes for a blissed-out lo-fi Americana experience that Moviola has come to define with their trademark easy-listening sound.