Turtlenecked, Vulture (Good Cheer)

[POST-EVERYTHING] Someone tell Harrison Smith to cool it. He’s making everyone who has ever thought about making music look very bad. The 21-year-old Turtlenecked mastermind came out of nowhere with last year’s wonderful Pure Plush Bone Cage, and on his Good Cheer follow-up, Smith outdoes himself—and pretty much every other band around—with a stunning display of polyglot pop brilliance. Smith, with help from Boreen’s Garrett Linck, recorded Vulture in his living room and played every instrument, but there is nary a trace of lo-fi preciousness here. Vulture is a big, loud and wild statement of purpose, a frenetic and restless demonstration of multivalent mastery that, in keeping with the album’s title, finds Smith feasting on the corpse of rock music and growing more powerful in the process.

Turtlenecked doesn’t abide conventional songwriting formulae, but once you settle into Vulture, you will learn to anticipate the wild loops and corkscrews that turn Smith’s songs into whiplash adventures. Like any good thrill ride, the anticipation only enlivens the surprise. “Pangloss,” a standout track on an album full of highlights, begins life as a post-punk dirge before lifting into the thin air of pop bliss, while “My New Necklace” somehow manages to successfully merge the hyperactive theatrics of Sparks with the downbeat drama of early Bright Eyes. This trick should not be possible. But Smith makes it so.

Vulture puts the world on notice: Turtlenecked can, at any moment, decide to be the best at whatever it chooses to pursue. “Meeting You in the Hospital” envisions a future in which Smith pens perfect anthems for smartypants sad sacks. “Bronze Bull” makes a convincing case that Turtlenecked could be the next Deerhoof, and “Tummy” is enough to position Smith as a contender for Xiu Xiu’s art-damaged throne. It’s not until “Stradivarius,” the album’s final track, that Harrison Smith settles down. As if utterly wrecked by his own inventions, Smith ends Vulture with a simple and pretty acoustic downer. It is the sneakiest trick, though—Turtlenecked can even do the simple stuff better than most. 

SEE IT: Turtlenecked plays Mississippi Studios, 3939 N Mississippi Ave., with Cool American and Bryson Cone, on Thursday, June 15. 8 pm. $5. 21+.