By Jim Schutze
By Rachel Watts
By Lauren Drewes Daniels
By Anna Merlan
By Lee Escobedo
By Alice Laussade
By Scott Reitz
Magierek loved "Only a Mountain" so much, though, that he insisted the song get an American release on the album. After he convinced the band, they requested adding three other Auscultation songs, resulting in a not-quite-new LP called The Art of Leaving, released on May 8.
"I think [the inclusion of old songs] is going to cause confusion for people who know the band already," Magierek says, "but these are great songs, and there are a lot of people who haven't discovered Pleasant Grove yet, so I think [the mix] will best benefit the band."
At the very least, longtime fans who own Auscultation will find that the six new songs take Pleasant Grove to bigger, louder territory. "Elaborate Son" and "Tug of War" are deep, heartfelt rockers, and the keyboard-driven "Impossible" rides Portishead-worthy drums and pedal-soaked guitars into the sonic equivalent of a head massage. Hearing the new material come to life in concert, along with mind-blowing reinterpretations of older songs, is a testament to the brotherhood that the band continues to talk about. The music gains a new dimension with live improvisation, yet avoids the pitfalls of Ben Harper-esque jam cheese.
This balance of exploration and restraint proves that these four musicians are finally reaping the fruits of playing together for four years. Even their personalities match up like artists working on a comic book: Ryan's the pencils guy, drawing every detail, and Striplin adds color to any leftover white space. Egner frequently quips like he's shading the comic, and Hormillosa, though quiet, wraps up the details by nailing the bottom line in ink.
Badman's support gives PG its first chance to take a break from organizing the nonmusical part of the business, and the guys are optimistic about that new freedom and where it may take the band.
"Now we can tour the United States, have some support and have [Badman's] people calling weeklies," Hormillosa says. "Our work is playing music. Jeff had been the manager-type in the band, but now we don't have to worry about booking and so on. We just have to show up and play."
"We've always been trying to get something out," Striplin says, "and now that the weight is lifted, we can play a song like Coltrane and Davis, play it for 35 minutes. It's amazing, because we all know that we're going somewhere else. We don't know where it's going, but we walk out of the rehearsal space afterwards happy as hell."