The parts of Big Green that downplay the rock and focus on the Spellmans’ songwriting are simply divine. “No Surprise” is easily the strongest song on the disc, a gorgeous, slow-motion shuffle that really should get some play in one of Friday Night Lights’ more tender moments. “No Surprise” has the light touch of the Band’s best ballads (think “The Weight”), with Ryan telling his mother that life will be OK over warm dollops of slide guitar. The title track hits a similar sweet spot but with a simpler arrangement: just an acoustic guitar, lead vocal, and subtle backup harmonies from Raquel Nasser.
But not everything on Big Green is quite so subtle, and a majority of the disc aims for the type of singsongy Americana Dr. Dog has beaten into the ground for too many years. “Nighttime” and “Storm Clouds” aren’t bad homages, but they are just too generic to stand out from the crowded camp of local folk-pop outfits. Quiet Life has a lot of potential for greatness—let’s just hope it can learn to focus on its quieter side.
SEE IT: Quiet Life plays Doug Fir on Saturday, Feb. 12, with the Moondoggies, Denver and Widower. 9 pm. $5. 21+.