Bed of Seeds is the culmination of a process that began when Height with Friends isolated themselves in the woods of Western Maryland, focusing on new beginnings. This is a necessary process for any artist to go through from time to time, especially those dealing with the modern maze of making beats and rocking rhymes.
Why? The game right now is being strangled by too-high clearance fees for samples and a Cash-Monied army of Cat-in-the-Hat rhymers content to imitate as opposed to innovate. Height fights back by rapping about actual cats and zoned dreams, cavalcade lagoons and houses in a state of duress. The entire sampling issue is sidestepped by the crew doing it for themselves mostly, the audio of others used only sparingly. The result? A new foundation, from the ground up.
This is dangerous. When rap meets rock, the results can really fall flat, new dangers being exposed by the wizards of poetry as they fail to capture the boom- bap. This is unfortunate and interesting, considering the shared lineage and general exchange of sonic ideas that the two camps engage in. Why is that you can sample Billy Squier’s “Big Beat” and make a hot track, but a 2010 replication just won’t make the head nod?
Discussion will continue on this contentious point, but one needs to listen to Bed of Seeds and just hear Height and Emily and Mickey and Travis and Gavin. Instead, will it be too easy to get tripped up in the production style, their challenging choice to rhyme over music that owes more to Motown and Doo-wop than it does to Swizz Beats and Scott Storch? What is more important, content or context?
Look… just put the needle on the record, okay? When it all comes together (and it does and then some on the club banger “Link Wray”), you are in it to win it, the Friends forming like Voltron to kill the game, winterize it, marinate it. You nod your head and go “damn.” As a single song, “Link Wray” thumps and hums and makes you want to act a fool. You don’t care where the beat came from. A dope beat is a dope beat.
There is no doubt that Bed of Seeds is an Album with a capital "A", a conceptual affair, a 30 minute journey that is a stylistic companion to the last Height with Friends effort Baltimore Highlands. Now we are at the next level, the footing more solid on the new terrain forged on the last release.
Height beckons, waiting for us to catch up with him, to join him in his new now next. There are no rules written that can’t be broken. Are we ready to take this trip?
This bed of seeds has been carefully tended and the seeds have borne fruit. The sky is the limit. I was down from my first listen to my twentieth. Let’s go though it track by track and see if I can explain why.
TRACK BY TRACK:
BED OF SEEDS- We begin with a fist pumper. This is real rock talk, hairspray and spandex reflected and refracted. Back to The beginning of it all, the evolution of life on Earth. The Friends croon, a Greek chorus to this creation story. The ultimate “back in the day” jam, back in the day being a few million years ago.
NO WAY TO WIN- We are on a country lane, mid-day, moseying along. Things aren’t going exactly as planned. The future is scary and things are looking grim. We are running out of money and time. The big lyrical pictures reflect the little lyrical pictures.
DREAMS DON’T ALWAYS COME TRUE- Another burner from the Height zone world, the backing track cinematic, like a heist sequence. The chorus has grown more forceful, their admonishment undeniable. Things are getting surreal as we go off the rails.
DEEP IN THE DARK- This track comes on like a companion to "Dreams". The chorus is lost, a bit off, reverse muffled. The band comes to the forefront, riding the fuzzed-out baseline.
LINK WRAY- Let the head nod, do that little Elvis hip swivel. The path here is clear. Go for it and let it be what it is, houses lost in holes in the ground, cats rocking bullet proof vests.
COLD CRUSH- Again, we find ourselves at a beginning, this time hip hop is evolving as humans have. Sax lines get chopped up as guitars swirl, the call and response keeping it old school, samples in play.
CAVALCADE LAGOONS- A rocked-out spacer. We are on a quest, trying to get there. The synth flutters and wows. The lagoon glimmers in the distance, just out of reach.
I’M SHOOK- Let’s do the hand jive as Height admits he is having hard times, shall we? A sleepy day, filled with backsteps leads to a hot track.
WINDPIPE- Motown dreams of anxiety. The haters are addressed, their slings and arrows signifying nothing. The sax is back over a track that owes a bit to the Misfits’ “Cough/Cool,” rough pop crafted from simple sources.
WHERE NO ONE CAN SEE- Under cover of darkness we descend to a secret place. The track makes us want to do the wop baseball bat like we’re bringing ’88 back. It’s just like that.
SEEDS REPRISE- We return to the beginning for a third time, just momentarily reminding us of where we are going, where we have been. A moment of reflection by the river before we descend.
DRUID HILL LAKE- A sad song is strummed as we recall friends lost and found. We say goodbye to our Friends as we come to the end. The big number at the end of the album, the end of the night. Big ballad lighters out! It’s closing time. Thank you and good night.
Height with Friends will perform a special mega-set at the Hexagon Space on Friday, May 28th, which will feature Mickey Free, Emily Slaughter, Gavin Riley, PT Burnem, Travis Allen, Brendan Richmond, Liz Aeby, Pam Kurowski and Rob Dowler of Nuclear Power Pants. Lord Grunge (of Grand Buffet) and Weekends will also perform. For more info on the show, go here. For more info on the album go here.