Height with Friends: Bed of Seeds
MC Height--aka Catonsville native Dan Keech--doesn't really rap. He talks. In a slow. And steady. Delib. Erate. Meter
It's a quality that, when set against more traditional hip-hop environments, makes him sound not so much old-school Run-DMC declarative--remember: while its MCs' cadence was often slower that today's rhymers, they delivered it with varying intonations and lively personalities--but rather more, well, Ben Stein "Bueller . . . Bueller . . . Bueller." (On record at least: Live Keech brings an energy to the microphone he lacks in the studio.) That tortoise-not-hare effect, though, was thoroughly--and necessarily--disrupted with last year's Baltimore Highlands, a collaborative outing that switched up the beat and production environments. With the new and even more varied and ambitious Bed of Seeds, though, it becomes blindingly clear what Keech should have been all along: the sing-speaking frontman to a hooky indie-pop band. Just think of Height as the slightly funkier and astronomically less misanthropic Mark E. Smith.
Not hating, just saying: Seeds' delivers more varied textures and moods than all of Keech's previous output put together, and its 12 tracks briskly move by in under half an hour. From the punchy distorted guitar and drum stomp of the lead-off title track to the gentle guitar strum and woozy organ of the nostalgic "Druid Hill Lake," Seeds convincingly sounds more band than solo act, and there's much more where that came from. While a number of tracks sound like they feature some kind of looped rhythmic element, nothing here is going to be mistaken for any kind of hip-hop, and the strongest cuts are pure wide-mouth pop.
"Link Wray" lassos a twangy-guitar figure to a rustling beat and features plucky backing vocals galloping alongside Keech. The backing musical mood creating "Cavalcade Lagoons" sounds like a snippet of a '50s film score--somewhere between Elmer Bernstein's The Man With the Golden Arm and something jauntily Henry Mancini--while "I'm Shook" practically hijacks the guitar giggle from George Michael's "Faith" and turns it into a bubbly, hand-clapping wake-up call to self. Hip-hop proper tended to fit Keech like a borrowed suit, but this constantly molting hybrid sounds and feels tailored to fit.