The debut, self-titled EP by the Defeated County was a necessary introductory step in singer/songwriter Langen Neubacher’s development; that 2013 release was her first recording, and it documented the coalescing of the Defeated County, a sympathetic combo made up of scene vets and disparate talents. Those talents and personalities have continued to fuse together, and Bar Tabs & Baby Names is the product of a band that has learned to summon the ghosts of St. Louis’ alt-country past without approaching slavish re-creation. There’s more rhythm & blues in drummer Jeremy Shanas’ backbeat and more bounce in Simon Chervitz’s bass lines than your average Uncle Tupelo acolytes.
On the dolorous set-closer “What God Doesn’t Say,” that pedal steel and guest Brien Seyle’s violin combine to create a gauzy backdrop that Neubacher luxuriates in. Earlier on the album, keyboardist and supporting vocalist Irene Allen (like nearly every player on this record, a musician in her own right) takes the lead on the gypsy-blues of “Win Your Love,” flecked with staccato guitar strums and a rumbling rhythmic core.
Often, it’s the juxtaposition of seemingly disparate parts that work the best on Bar Tabs & Baby Names — when Neubacher uses the peppy “Gonna Be Damned” to throw shade on a cross-town charlatan, or when shimmering synth and country guitar licks butt heads on “Darkest Eyes.” The album’s sole cover, a low-slung version of MGMT’s “Kids,” might sneak by you if that indelible hook weren’t so engrained on your mid-aughts musical memory map. Here, that same hook is transmitted via lonesome guitar; it’s an oddball choice that works nicely.
Stream three tracks from the new album below:
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