Bug Music/Serpents And SnakesBy Justin Lyons
Murfreesboro, Tenn.’s four-piece outfit The Features show their maturation since 2008’s Some Kind of Salvation. On their third album they ditch a horn section that never seemed right in favor of driving rhythms and howling guitar. The resulting effect is much darker on The Wilderness, but seems to suit lead singer Matt Pelham’s strengths as a singer with an arsenal of tones.
The album has a reflective yet furious start, fueled by schizophrenic keys and rumbling guitar on lead cut “Content.” Like a doomsday clairvoyant, Pelham reluctantly ponders the leaders of tomorrow in eerie echoed distortion. “Big Mama Gonna Whip Us Good” further metaphorically speaks on the future and environment. The transition after the two minute mark even sounds like a hell-raising tornado with crashing cymbals and impending bass line.
The Features showcase hints at pop sensibility throughout The Wilderness. The most rewind-friendly cut on album lies within “Golden Comb.” Armed with a danceable groove driven by pulsing synchronized drum, keys and guitar, Pelham’s bellowed vocals sound especially buoyant. Last-minute flows from militant drums are paired perfectly in a relentless pursuit of a lady who isn’t after love, but most likely a large bank account.
Advancement of The Features is also apparent on slower cuts making excellent use of Pelham’s range. “Love Is” marries Pelham’s gravel-toned pipes with spiralling keys. The track ends with a clever call and response session, almost as if the questions are echoing throughout the lead singer’s head as his “heart of stone cracks like an egg.”
The band’s backwoods influence returns on rockabilly-leaning “Kids,” but mostly as a progression. Is it possible to show growth, in referencing the past? I think so. Especially when its a rowdy coming-out party actuated by a singer who displays full maturation vocally and is partnered with pulsing and kinetic instrumentation.
The Features play The Wilderness release show at The EARL on August 26.