Plates Of Cake
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Plates Of Cake

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The elephant in the room: frontman Jonathan Byerley’s wise-beyond-his-years vocal husk. It’s only slightly more welcoming than Tom Waits’, just a hair more demanding than Nick Cave’s. Against the backdrop of blustery, country-tinged rock that crosses The National with Silver Jews, it’s going to stand out, but in the context of 2012 Brooklyn, everything about Plates of Cake stands out. Their songs are punch-drunk and lovelorn, with that voice making everything sound so thick and rich. Music that sticks to your guts. Byerley and band are currently in the studio recording the follow-up to their 2010 self-titled debut. Keep an eye out, Dessner bros. - L Magazine


The elephant in the room: frontman Jonathan Byerley’s wise-beyond-his-years vocal husk. It’s only slightly more welcoming than Tom Waits’, just a hair more demanding than Nick Cave’s. Against the backdrop of blustery, country-tinged rock that crosses The National with Silver Jews, it’s going to stand out, but in the context of 2012 Brooklyn, everything about Plates of Cake stands out. Their songs are punch-drunk and lovelorn, with that voice making everything sound so thick and rich. Music that sticks to your guts. Byerley and band are currently in the studio recording the follow-up to their 2010 self-titled debut. Keep an eye out, Dessner bros. - L Magazine


Back in 2010, Brooklyn’s Plates of Cake released their eponymous debut, one of the great unsung guitar-pop records of that year. Two-plus years later, they expand on that album’s impressive palate of sound with Teenage Evil, a blissed-out yet dingy set of sharp power-pop tunes. The band still pits propulsive, sunburst riffs against the gruff croon of singer Jonathan Byerley, but here the songcraft tightens just a bit, while the breadth of sounds continues to expand. Opener “Late Last London” hits with lean pop power, but it sets up the statelier angles of the hooks in “A Capitol Is Born” and the Springsteen-cum-reggae sweetness of “Hey Hey That’s Devotion”. Every song here hits with the darkly humorous charm of, say, Robyn Hitchcock (no wonder they cover the Soft Boys’ “Underwater Moonlight”), but delivers the quirky rock punch of any band Robert Pollard has fronted. Part restless pop experimenters, part hazy rockers, Plates of Cake are a band owed some attention, and with the top-to-bottom excellent Teenage Evil, they just might get it. Matthew Fiander - Popmatters


Back in 2010, Brooklyn’s Plates of Cake released their eponymous debut, one of the great unsung guitar-pop records of that year. Two-plus years later, they expand on that album’s impressive palate of sound with Teenage Evil, a blissed-out yet dingy set of sharp power-pop tunes. The band still pits propulsive, sunburst riffs against the gruff croon of singer Jonathan Byerley, but here the songcraft tightens just a bit, while the breadth of sounds continues to expand. Opener “Late Last London” hits with lean pop power, but it sets up the statelier angles of the hooks in “A Capitol Is Born” and the Springsteen-cum-reggae sweetness of “Hey Hey That’s Devotion”. Every song here hits with the darkly humorous charm of, say, Robyn Hitchcock (no wonder they cover the Soft Boys’ “Underwater Moonlight”), but delivers the quirky rock punch of any band Robert Pollard has fronted. Part restless pop experimenters, part hazy rockers, Plates of Cake are a band owed some attention, and with the top-to-bottom excellent Teenage Evil, they just might get it. Matthew Fiander - Popmatters


One cursory spin of the first two Plates of Cake records to come through this door told me that I needed to pass them along to someone who could really appreciate them. This time I wanted to suck it up, because a band moving from one tiny label to another could mean either bad judgment on someone’s behalf, or that the band has some fight in them. Plates of Cake’s particular battle is uphill. They play a sort of refined, collared-shirt-and-blazer rock music that has never really been popular except for some random outliers like Elvis Costello. Some of their sound points towards such a brainy direction, but there’s a more literate side here than your typical power pop band, so that they sound like a very calculated and settled-down version of a better, more unpredictable band like fellow NYC locals Home Blitz, or an increasingly less-amateur, non-ethnic-appropriating Vampire Weekend with a sleeping giant on vocals. Apparently the core members of the group have known one another from growing up in Colorado together, and it’s those roots which give the band what some would consider an inflexibility which makes their music even more of an all-or-nothing proposition. Now that the criticism is mostly out of the way, there are some keepers in here, particularly the side openers of “Late Last London” and the title track, which serve as their best songs to date, and set a precedent for toothy, biting guitars and crisp, autumnal musicianship that holds through the whole album. There are some Wes Anderson moments – you know what I mean – that don’t have much of a place in rock music, and a cover of the Soft Boys’ “Underwater Moonlight” in the middle of the record does little more than show their hand. Then there’s the issue of frontman and songwriter Jonathan Byerley, whose morose delivery comes off mostly urbane but is still a VERY acquired taste as far as singers go. For real, his ways will make or break this band for most of you, and over the whole album one gets the sense that he might not be as clever as he’d like you to believe. But I recognize the sparks being squeezed out here – this band is about a record or two away from making a statement, one that endears them either to insightful folk like myself, or to fans of The National, but not likely to both. At this stage, I’m interested in finding out, which I can’t say for a lot of bands still sending in their records after a good, hard shellacking. - Still Single


One cursory spin of the first two Plates of Cake records to come through this door told me that I needed to pass them along to someone who could really appreciate them. This time I wanted to suck it up, because a band moving from one tiny label to another could mean either bad judgment on someone’s behalf, or that the band has some fight in them. Plates of Cake’s particular battle is uphill. They play a sort of refined, collared-shirt-and-blazer rock music that has never really been popular except for some random outliers like Elvis Costello. Some of their sound points towards such a brainy direction, but there’s a more literate side here than your typical power pop band, so that they sound like a very calculated and settled-down version of a better, more unpredictable band like fellow NYC locals Home Blitz, or an increasingly less-amateur, non-ethnic-appropriating Vampire Weekend with a sleeping giant on vocals. Apparently the core members of the group have known one another from growing up in Colorado together, and it’s those roots which give the band what some would consider an inflexibility which makes their music even more of an all-or-nothing proposition. Now that the criticism is mostly out of the way, there are some keepers in here, particularly the side openers of “Late Last London” and the title track, which serve as their best songs to date, and set a precedent for toothy, biting guitars and crisp, autumnal musicianship that holds through the whole album. There are some Wes Anderson moments – you know what I mean – that don’t have much of a place in rock music, and a cover of the Soft Boys’ “Underwater Moonlight” in the middle of the record does little more than show their hand. Then there’s the issue of frontman and songwriter Jonathan Byerley, whose morose delivery comes off mostly urbane but is still a VERY acquired taste as far as singers go. For real, his ways will make or break this band for most of you, and over the whole album one gets the sense that he might not be as clever as he’d like you to believe. But I recognize the sparks being squeezed out here – this band is about a record or two away from making a statement, one that endears them either to insightful folk like myself, or to fans of The National, but not likely to both. At this stage, I’m interested in finding out, which I can’t say for a lot of bands still sending in their records after a good, hard shellacking. - Still Single


I’ve been in a unique position to watch Teenage Evil grow from a spiteful seed into a splendorous, long-limbed plant. The rough mixes of about five or six songs arrived at my doorstep last year, and I played the shit out of those damn things. I even had a few ideas I wanted to share with head cog Jonathan Byerley (“Listen man, the chorus of ‘Hey Hey That’s Devotion’ is too good to wait for; you need to start the song with that shit yo!”), not to mention the fact that I sort of liked the way the rough mixes sounded (then again, I’ve almost always preferred ghetto, demo-stage mixes to polishes ones).

My point is, this review has been fluttering around in the back of my noggin’ for so long I’ve been struggling to figure out what the hell I’m going to do with it. So I’ll go ahead and lay it on the clothesline for you: It’s a good record. I fucking love Plates Of Cake’s approach to the indie-rock tradition. They play it straight, relatively speaking, but while they do it, they slant to the side just enough to cause roller-coaster queasiness in the uninitiated. Their guitars ring, jingle, jangle, and tingle via simple riffs, the drummer has never met a fill he likes, and the group choruses are tamped way down. Their knack for being slightly off serves them well on their sophomore full-length, as prime cuts like the aforementioned “Hey Hey That’s Devotion” (replete with a “D’yer Mak’er” chorus), a Clash-ism that spells out interesting possibilities for PoC’s future; “Transit Trials,” a sickeningly cold-catchy single I also wrote up for Cerberus awhile back; and “A Capital is Born” represent the epitome of solid rock writing, planning, and execution.

There also is a dark side I can’t ignore. The reasonably apt Soft Boys cover knocks Teenage Evil off its runaway trajectory SMACK-dab at the end of Side A, and it takes a few flip-side tunes to recover. I don’t like to speculate too much on motivations artists have for what they do and why they do it, but I will offer this: covers don’t make sense if the creative juices are truly flowing, and it frankly distracts me every single time I spin the LP. A couple cuts on Side B also betray a hint of staleness that there wasn’t even a whiff of on Plates Of Cake’s debut album. (Thank god “As If the Choice Were Mine” is there to mop up.)

I don’t find these small flaws to be distracting enough to detract from the whole, particularly because the lyrics, once again, resist any hipster trap you can set by dint of their plain-spoken, witness-to-a-bus-crash frankness (sample: “It’s better to be lonely than cruel;” teenage evil, indeed). Teenage Evil carries the same traits some of us fell in love with the first time around, but adds a few stunning, sweeping gestures you’ll find it impossible not to respond to. While Jonathan Byerly also released a solo album in 2012, I hope he continues to cultivate the signature sound he’s nailed as the frontman of Plates Of Cake.
- TinyMixTapes


I’ve been in a unique position to watch Teenage Evil grow from a spiteful seed into a splendorous, long-limbed plant. The rough mixes of about five or six songs arrived at my doorstep last year, and I played the shit out of those damn things. I even had a few ideas I wanted to share with head cog Jonathan Byerley (“Listen man, the chorus of ‘Hey Hey That’s Devotion’ is too good to wait for; you need to start the song with that shit yo!”), not to mention the fact that I sort of liked the way the rough mixes sounded (then again, I’ve almost always preferred ghetto, demo-stage mixes to polishes ones).

My point is, this review has been fluttering around in the back of my noggin’ for so long I’ve been struggling to figure out what the hell I’m going to do with it. So I’ll go ahead and lay it on the clothesline for you: It’s a good record. I fucking love Plates Of Cake’s approach to the indie-rock tradition. They play it straight, relatively speaking, but while they do it, they slant to the side just enough to cause roller-coaster queasiness in the uninitiated. Their guitars ring, jingle, jangle, and tingle via simple riffs, the drummer has never met a fill he likes, and the group choruses are tamped way down. Their knack for being slightly off serves them well on their sophomore full-length, as prime cuts like the aforementioned “Hey Hey That’s Devotion” (replete with a “D’yer Mak’er” chorus), a Clash-ism that spells out interesting possibilities for PoC’s future; “Transit Trials,” a sickeningly cold-catchy single I also wrote up for Cerberus awhile back; and “A Capital is Born” represent the epitome of solid rock writing, planning, and execution.

There also is a dark side I can’t ignore. The reasonably apt Soft Boys cover knocks Teenage Evil off its runaway trajectory SMACK-dab at the end of Side A, and it takes a few flip-side tunes to recover. I don’t like to speculate too much on motivations artists have for what they do and why they do it, but I will offer this: covers don’t make sense if the creative juices are truly flowing, and it frankly distracts me every single time I spin the LP. A couple cuts on Side B also betray a hint of staleness that there wasn’t even a whiff of on Plates Of Cake’s debut album. (Thank god “As If the Choice Were Mine” is there to mop up.)

I don’t find these small flaws to be distracting enough to detract from the whole, particularly because the lyrics, once again, resist any hipster trap you can set by dint of their plain-spoken, witness-to-a-bus-crash frankness (sample: “It’s better to be lonely than cruel;” teenage evil, indeed). Teenage Evil carries the same traits some of us fell in love with the first time around, but adds a few stunning, sweeping gestures you’ll find it impossible not to respond to. While Jonathan Byerly also released a solo album in 2012, I hope he continues to cultivate the signature sound he’s nailed as the frontman of Plates Of Cake.
- TinyMixTapes




Have you ever looked at someone at your workplace and sort of examined him or her, looking for the traits that make them promotable, wondering what they have that you don’t? Yeah, you’re thinking about that person right now, aren’t you? They always seem to get the last cup of coffee without bubbling up a new brew, and no one but you notices. How are they so effortlessly GOOD while also so careless in their day-to-day activities? (Whereas YOU make coffee three times a day, and no one gives a steamy SHIT.)

Fellow indie-rockers, it’s time to start studying Plates Of Cake, because they have It, and for the most part, you Don’t. Then again, as with the ladder-climbing prototype above, it might be impossible to glean what renders Pla-Cay so superior, partly because what they’ve harnessed with their self-titled (debut? I certainly know nothing of any previous work) album a perfect balance of melody, irony, blue-collar wishing, common-man ruminating, gruffness, and perpetual doubt. It’s intimidating how confident vocalist/guitarist Jonathan Byerley is in his own, self-deprecating skin, how eager he is to show the warts of his personality for all to gawk at, like Bukowski naked from the waste down, stuck head-first in a trash can while Los Angeles street life swirls around him.

I took my time writing this review, believe-me-you — I wasn’t going to praise Plates of Cake to the SKY the STARS and the HOLY GHOST without listening to it over and over, making sure it wasn’t somehow screening out my critical powers with one of those tricks where you listen to the album the first/second/third time, put it down for a spell, then pick it back up and find there’s something integral missing, a trait or detractor you missed while drunk or whatever else, stomping around your hardwood-floor place with your wife and daughter singing along to the lyrics: “I am a waiter on a private yacht/ Look at all the faces and I want what they’ve got.”

Again, it’s effortless yet so improper upon first listen, like hearing Dylan’s yowl or Jonathan Richman’s mouth-farts for the first time; sucking them up, blowing them out, then figuring out if the whole creation is for you or not. Assessing the “scene” and finding it to be a comfortable place to wait idly while life swallows you whole and sticks its warm, sticky, mealy tongue in your ear.

This is why art is magical: It has a way of evening things out for the Rest Of Us. Byerley is so utterly aware of his averageness he has managed to become GREAT through that very awareness — and for many reasons. For one, his uncouth BARk is, as I mentioned, so distinctive. He sounds like a motherfucking Muppet, truth be told, but a weathered, old-timer Muppet who has been on the road too long. He sort of sounds like Seth Rogen circa Knocked Up, at the part where the mushrooms consume him and Cirque De Soleil becomes too much for him. Is this making sense? I’m doing my best here — YOU try pinning a tail on such a precedent-less donkey …

His lyrics are as idiosyncratic and distinctive as his voice. “Thrown into the night/ Look into their faces, and try to catch their eye/ And my face will be painted with the coals of the night/ And my face will be painted with the coals of the Night.” Maybe not life-shattering when isolated on their own, yet these very lines are pieces of a wonderfully simple, albeit elusive, formula that carries Plates Of Cake — like a piece of sponge on a fancy dinner tray at a crowded winter’s ball — through the entire record. Not a single song fails, not a single moment is misplaced.

And that guitar interplay … I’m not sure who’s playing those lead lines — it could be Byerley, could be Joshua Carrafa, could be Gann Mattews — but they’re of the sort that wrap around your brain like a giant octopus, eventually crushing you to death. This is the beginnings of a Paul Maroon-type talent (Maroon’s the guitarist from The Walkmen, if you must know), and it’s all accomplished without a scrap of the music-conservatory high-mindedness that ruins so many of NYC’s leading indie lights. This is rock ’n’ roll for latenight cab rides, rainy mid-day skies, blinking lights, almost-gone well drinks, cocktail napkins with phone numbers written in lipstick — this is The National if The National sounded like everyone says they do.

I can’t emphasize this enough: If you don’t check Plates Of Cake out, you will be sorry. Maybe not five minutes from now, maybe not in a day or two, but someday. This is where the whole ground-floor theory goes right out the window and I just recommend a record because it’s enriched my life like the hopped-up ale I often enjoy when I’m havin’ a piece. Truly soiled music, dove-like in its beauty and full of gritty fire and sore guts.
- TinyMixTapes




Have you ever looked at someone at your workplace and sort of examined him or her, looking for the traits that make them promotable, wondering what they have that you don’t? Yeah, you’re thinking about that person right now, aren’t you? They always seem to get the last cup of coffee without bubbling up a new brew, and no one but you notices. How are they so effortlessly GOOD while also so careless in their day-to-day activities? (Whereas YOU make coffee three times a day, and no one gives a steamy SHIT.)

Fellow indie-rockers, it’s time to start studying Plates Of Cake, because they have It, and for the most part, you Don’t. Then again, as with the ladder-climbing prototype above, it might be impossible to glean what renders Pla-Cay so superior, partly because what they’ve harnessed with their self-titled (debut? I certainly know nothing of any previous work) album a perfect balance of melody, irony, blue-collar wishing, common-man ruminating, gruffness, and perpetual doubt. It’s intimidating how confident vocalist/guitarist Jonathan Byerley is in his own, self-deprecating skin, how eager he is to show the warts of his personality for all to gawk at, like Bukowski naked from the waste down, stuck head-first in a trash can while Los Angeles street life swirls around him.

I took my time writing this review, believe-me-you — I wasn’t going to praise Plates of Cake to the SKY the STARS and the HOLY GHOST without listening to it over and over, making sure it wasn’t somehow screening out my critical powers with one of those tricks where you listen to the album the first/second/third time, put it down for a spell, then pick it back up and find there’s something integral missing, a trait or detractor you missed while drunk or whatever else, stomping around your hardwood-floor place with your wife and daughter singing along to the lyrics: “I am a waiter on a private yacht/ Look at all the faces and I want what they’ve got.”

Again, it’s effortless yet so improper upon first listen, like hearing Dylan’s yowl or Jonathan Richman’s mouth-farts for the first time; sucking them up, blowing them out, then figuring out if the whole creation is for you or not. Assessing the “scene” and finding it to be a comfortable place to wait idly while life swallows you whole and sticks its warm, sticky, mealy tongue in your ear.

This is why art is magical: It has a way of evening things out for the Rest Of Us. Byerley is so utterly aware of his averageness he has managed to become GREAT through that very awareness — and for many reasons. For one, his uncouth BARk is, as I mentioned, so distinctive. He sounds like a motherfucking Muppet, truth be told, but a weathered, old-timer Muppet who has been on the road too long. He sort of sounds like Seth Rogen circa Knocked Up, at the part where the mushrooms consume him and Cirque De Soleil becomes too much for him. Is this making sense? I’m doing my best here — YOU try pinning a tail on such a precedent-less donkey …

His lyrics are as idiosyncratic and distinctive as his voice. “Thrown into the night/ Look into their faces, and try to catch their eye/ And my face will be painted with the coals of the night/ And my face will be painted with the coals of the Night.” Maybe not life-shattering when isolated on their own, yet these very lines are pieces of a wonderfully simple, albeit elusive, formula that carries Plates Of Cake — like a piece of sponge on a fancy dinner tray at a crowded winter’s ball — through the entire record. Not a single song fails, not a single moment is misplaced.

And that guitar interplay … I’m not sure who’s playing those lead lines — it could be Byerley, could be Joshua Carrafa, could be Gann Mattews — but they’re of the sort that wrap around your brain like a giant octopus, eventually crushing you to death. This is the beginnings of a Paul Maroon-type talent (Maroon’s the guitarist from The Walkmen, if you must know), and it’s all accomplished without a scrap of the music-conservatory high-mindedness that ruins so many of NYC’s leading indie lights. This is rock ’n’ roll for latenight cab rides, rainy mid-day skies, blinking lights, almost-gone well drinks, cocktail napkins with phone numbers written in lipstick — this is The National if The National sounded like everyone says they do.

I can’t emphasize this enough: If you don’t check Plates Of Cake out, you will be sorry. Maybe not five minutes from now, maybe not in a day or two, but someday. This is where the whole ground-floor theory goes right out the window and I just recommend a record because it’s enriched my life like the hopped-up ale I often enjoy when I’m havin’ a piece. Truly soiled music, dove-like in its beauty and full of gritty fire and sore guts.
- TinyMixTapes


Discography

Teenage Evil - LP (Uninhabitable Mansions, 2013)
As If The Choice Were Mine/Transit Trials - 7" single (All Hands Electric, 2011)
Plates Of Cake - LP (All Hands Electric, 2010)

Photos

Bio

Plates of Cake is a Brooklyn based band made up of high school friends from Colorado. With an emphasis on lyrical structure and clever melodies, Plates of Cake play a kind of surrealistic rock music favored by luminaries such as The Soft Boys.

In 2010, Plates of Cake released their debut LP on the All Hands Electric label, and followed their debut with a 7" single. The records were praised by TinyMixTapes and Popmatters. In 2012, Plates Of Cake signed to the label Uninhabitable Mansions, who released their 2nd LP - Teenage Evil - in March of 2013. This release was followed by an east coast tour which included live performances on WFMU and WXPN.