Only a band from the south could get away with an album like this. Glossary is a quintet from Murfreesboro, Tennessee that churns out fairly melodic, southern-fried rock with pleasant boy/girl vocal interplay and doesn’t sell itself short by limiting its spectrum of musical influences to just ‘countrified alt-rock.’ The whole alternative country scene is pretty haggard, anyway, with bands hopping on the bandwagon and rubbing down its edges. Thankfully, there’s a solid dose of indie-pop in Glossary’s repertoire, and it actually feels more natural than the blatant ‘southern’ mannerisms inherent to the songwriting.
“West Liberty” opens the band’s second album with a meek acoustic guitar and a scratchy, almost practiced southern drawl. The song builds into a melodic monster, though, climaxing with a noisy surge of guitars and then taking a sharp left turn into the quirky land of Built To Spill-style guitar-pop. I can’t decide if the amateurish vocals of “Just Be A Rampart” are charming or just annoying. The high-end strains can be pretty painful. The guitars are busy noodling away in concurrent melodies that all seem to gel in the, admittedly, catchy chorus. Glossary maintains a sense of optimism throughout the album that isn’t contrived in any way.
The music is lo-fi by design, mixing folk, pop, and southern rock into a palliative, hook-heavy formula. “Daydream Drifting” exudes enough personality to separate this band from droves of Wilco acolytes. You can hear the years of listening to Sebadoh, Dinosaur Jr., and various Chapel Hill exports in everything from the vocal inflections to the musicianship. But then along comes a song like “Feeling Transcendental”, which, on top of its ill-advised title, wanks obnoxiously with screeching guitars and forced, heavily affected vocals. Being a twangy rock band is not a license to act like a hippie, and no band can get away with using a word as embarrassing as ‘transcendental’ even if it is slightly tongue in cheek.
Glossary switches up vocalists from song to song, and it’s pretty obvious which writers have more experience. This Is All We’ve Learned About Living is only slightly uneven as a whole, though. The songs that stand out really make an impression. “Frozen Satisfaction” has a distinct, indie-pop sound, where the aforementioned vocal strains actually sound palatable. The band tends to be a bit long-winded with the bulk of the songs topping five and even six minutes. Fast Walkin’ Shit Talkin’ is a notable exception with its buzzing guitars and memorable harmonies. “Counterculturalism” is also a standout, recalling early Elvis Costello with its high-end keyboard line and aggressive vocals.
The last half of the record seems much more consistent than the first. Maggie Manley makes her first noteworthy contribution in “Wandered Off Too Far.” Her voice sounds girlish and shy and not too dissimilar to Bridget Cross’ from Unrest and Air Miami in its double-tracked harmonies. If Glossary can tighten up its songwriting and weed out the duds, then future albums should truly be remarkable.