You could chalk the surprising maturity of West Palm indie act Raggy Monster's debut album, perhaps, to Raggy Monster vocalist and co-founder Billy Schmidt's classical piano training. You could also chalk it up equally to fellow vocalist and pianist Rachel Duvall's mature, elastic pipes and dramatic flair, or to the rest of the band's classic rock upbringings. All of these combined mean that the five-piece's first, self-titled full-length, is a properly realized artistic effort.
Instead of going the route of so many young bands -- figuring out a couple of blog-worthy singles and then padding an EP with filler -- Schmidt, Duvall, and company envisioned a complete work from start to finish. From the beginning, Raggy Monster, the album, traverses a clear narrative arc, starting with the mood-setting opener, "Baker's Dozen," an almost Dead Can Dance-like slab of atmospherics punctuated by wordless vocal trills from Duvall. That opens up to a middle movement that moves between classic, jangling indie rock a la Pavement ("Broken Jack") to Amanda Palmer-esque, Vaudevillian, piano-driven rock explosions ("Because of His").
"We all grew up listening to those classic records that still focused on creating one complete work of art rather than a bunch of random singles compiled on an album," says Schmidt. "We wanted to continue that tradition with our album, so when we picked out the final tracks we started focusing on how they would transition into each other. The last song even flows seamlessly into the first if you have it on repeat."
Many of the best moments on the album come towards its middle, when Schmidt and Duvall trade vocal duties on the same track. Schmidt's mid-range, straightforward style serves as a straight-man counterpoint to Duvall's multi-octave wails, with both weaving spontaneously in and out over alternately calm and theatrical passages. "Some songs progress in a way that it feels right to have both of us sing, and then others become obvious that Rachel needs to flex her pipes," Schmidt says. "Our next album is going to move more in the latter direction."
The other most impressive aspect of the record is its fairly slick production, the result of a Pledge Music campaign the band ran to raise funds before the session. Raggy Monster hit Avalon Recording Studio in Port St. Lucie for a fairly luxurious three weeks in late July and early August. "We had an amazing engineer named Ryan Copt with magical fingers that moved at the speed of light to make everything sound amazing. The whole process went really smoothly," says Schmidt. "All in all I don't think it could have gone much better than it did."
To celebrate all of that, plus the album's official release this past Tuesday, Raggy Monster headlines a show tonight at Respectable Street. Of course, they'll be playing songs from the new album -- which you can naturally buy at the gig -- plus, surprisingly, even newer material. "We've actually started writing the next album already!" Schmidt says. "The first song we wrote got us so excited we thought about trying to include it on the first album, but it was too late."
Raggy Monster. 10 p.m. Thursday, September 6 at Respectable Street, 518 Clematis St. Admission is free; age 21 and up. Call 561-832-9999, or click here.
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