Jesse Smith and Aaron Sternick have been making music together for years and under their latest moniker, Welcome Center, they’ve put together an EP called Different Joys comprised of five lo-fi rock tunes filled with dance grooves, fuzzy guitars, and miles and miles of heart. Listening through you’ll hear pieces of early Modest Mouse, a touch of Desaparecidos, a bit of Clap Your Hand Say Yeah, and a slew of other sounds that are maddeningly familiar, but there’s only so many names that can be dropped before admitting that while the group’s influences may be legion their particular sound is their own.
First track “Float The Script” opens with buzzsaw guitar riffs offset by simple picking, all set behind a scratchy vocal. While that sounds busy the song actually feels pretty sparse, even when the drums pick up. It’s here that the Isaac Brock comparisons are strongest, powered by lyrics filled with a potent mix of introspection, nostalgia, and melancholy as Smith sings, “What I wouldn’t give to go back there, I forget, forgot and forgave/ The promised land seemed promising until we came of age/ It’s like only thing I ever learned was how to dig my grave/ And push everything good away.”
“Hedonistic Shakedown” kicks up the tempo with heavy use of that dance-inducing high hat/snare combo, continuing that hallowed indie-rock tradition of setting dark, sad stories to the tune of upbeat, happy beats. Nothing says party like, “waiting for the rapture or/ perhaps the next departure/ to the promised land of the comatose”. It’s fun of the most desperate kind.
“If You Can’t (I Can)” is a song that’s so laid back that it’s bordering on exhaustion. It starts out brightly enough, but little hints of strain in the vocal combined with lines like, “looking back, my eyes are bloodshot/ chicago’s got my heart on hold again/ i’m lost now, but who the hell’s not?/ a broken cross, an empty flask and a couple of friends” indicate a shaky tiredness more than easy relaxation.
If the third track was a snapshot of a will about to crack under the pressures of life, “Ropes” is a counterpoint of rebellious determination to keep going. The steady drums and jangly guitars intensify throughout the song until they’re exploding as Smith screams the words, “I am taking my time, I’m learning/ My sheets caught fire, my soul’s been burning/ But I am taking my time, I’m learning the ropes.”
Wrapping up the EP is “Ecclesiastes 7:4″, an acoustic elegy for a relationship past. It’s a road-weary reflection on things that might have been.
All told Different Joys is a wonderful collection of rhythms and beats and moods and feelings that the pair are currently offering on bandcamp for whatever price you’d like to pay, including free.