I feel like I say that every new release from New Jersey’s Indie/Emo/Post-Rock outfit Prawn is their best - and, I suppose, that’s how it should be, right? But when trying to describe to friends what it is about each subsequent record that feels so refreshing, I tend to come up short. Before Kingfisher, the release of Prawn’s outstanding split 7” with Joie De Vivre felt, to me, like an assertion of who they really were as a band. It was one of those immediately quintessential recordings, the kind that felt like the only, and best, possible distillation of the band’s sound as presented in a recorded medium. It came as a shock when, during our conversation with Prawn frontman, Tony Clark, those two tracks were very much of that time, and weren’t an especially strong indication of where they were heading. So with the announcement of a new full-length - one to be produced by Moving Mountains’ Gregory Dunn, no less - my interest and excitement wasn’t just immediately piqued, it was elevated to the point of barely registering many of the albums that would come before it. This is an increasingly crowded playing field, what with this supposed Emo Revival happening all around us, you know?
Their appearance a couple of weeks ago at Rohs St. Cafe - which was, notably, their first time in Cincinnati - brought with it a palpable excitement, as they played their Ships EP in it’s entirety, in between debuting new tracks from Kingfisher. And though I’d heard the new album more times than I could count at that point, the experience of hearing them live so early on was enough to build on an anticipation that was already significant. My own lofty expectations and hopefulness aside, Kingfisher proves beyond a doubt that Prawn is capable of much more than even their previous releases hinted at, let alone promised. As good as they are, it’s hard to imagine the iterative steps taken to get where they are now, both musically and professionally. It’s rare - well, at least rarer than you might think - to have a band craft and create an album that so perfectly encapsulates everything that makes them what they are, yet bravely and assuredly reaches beyond what makes them the invigorating and admittedly atypical band that they were to begin with.
Working happily both within and outside the confines of a genre that has become increasingly more confined as fans, bands, and musicians seek a stronger, stricter definition (though to what end I can’t quite figure out), Prawn manages to toe the delicate line between meeting certain criteria and blazing their own trail. With Kingfisher’s ebb and flow - certainly more flow than anything, though - it’s a record that moves at it’s own pace, owning it’s various layers and speeds with a delicate but sure hand. It has gravity and is absolutely fierce at times - this is a band that has found a focus many take a much longer time to develop, much less put to tape. Every track is important to the overall feel and tone of the album, and though we might consider it an effortless creation, it’s hard to really conceive just how much thought, preparation, and consideration went into both the creation of each track, and the formation of the album itself.
It’s worth discussing, at length, the quality and clarity of sound that’s present from the first ringing note of the album, but unfortunately, there’s only so much of your attention span I can expect to maintain. Suffice it to say, simply, that Greg Dunn’s production is truly sublime, allowing each track to live in it’s own space while simultaneously occupying the same sonic landscape throughout the length of Kingfisher. It’s a difficult act to balance, but Dunn’s light touch is the perfect antidote to some of the more overproduced and heavy-handed records of the last several years. That’s not to say that the album isn’t noticeably punchier and fuller than some of their previous efforts, it’s simply that what production there is is so tightly woven into the tracks themselves, that the collaboration between Dunn and the band seems like nothing but a foregone conclusion. Lush, vibrant, crystal clear, there’s nothing out of place during the entirety of Kingfisher’s running time, which with Prawn’s post-rock tendencies, is considerable (but never overstays its welcome - in fact, quite the opposite).
This is a crossroads for Prawn, both in their aesthetic and mission statement, as well as their career as a whole. 2014 has already seen a significant increase in activity from the band, with the promise and intent to move ahead as quickly as circumstances allow. For a band that’s really only just now finding solid footing, Kingfisher could very well end up being the most crucial piece of a puzzle the band is finally starting to figure out how to put together.
Prawn is RIYL: Brand New, Braid, and Explosions In The Sky. Check out the interview with Prawn HERE.