new paltz trio quarterbacks reëmerged early last year with purpose, releasing their second cassette, sportscenter, via double double whammy. the follow-up to 2012’s earnest loveseat, sportscenter again highlighted dean engle’s vocal quiver and the band’s penchant for frantic, twee-indebted pop tunes that often served their purpose in under ninety seconds. engle shed his rhythm section later that spring for quarterboy, a largely acoustic addendum that found him reinterpreting cuts from across the band’s brief catalogue while quietly introducing key quarterbacks pillars like “center” and “knicks.” now, after three years and three self-recorded tascam tapes, quarterbacks have offered up their self-titled full-length album, containing nineteen songs that pass by in a brisk twenty-two minutes. while none of the tracks are new, they have all been re-recorded and properly mastered for the first time, giving quarterbacks the smidgen of high fidelity they needed to truly pack a punch.
engle’s out-of-tune observations and narrations of a relatively mundane day-to-day existence have long been the main focus of quarterbacks, and they’re nicely framed throughout the self-titled. the front half of the album mostly pulls from sportscenter and quarterboy, resulting in sharp re-imaginings of last year’s hasty demos and acoustic renditions that feel like logical progressions in the band’s evolution, as if the pair of cassettes were just rough sketches of what was to come. the earwormy descending melody from “pool” benefits from extra clarity and instrumentation, while the finished version of “knicks” is possibly the best slow burner clocking in at under a minute in recent memory.
the final third of quarterbacks draws exclusively on loveseat, and it’s refreshing to realize the importance of engle’s three-year-old love songs. he sings old cuts like “never go” and “space” with just as much intimacy and urgency as he does on newer efforts, while the inclusion of “simple songs” underscores the fact that large collections of three-chord, minute-long non-sequiturs are the perfect tools for the band to disseminate their message.
for quarterbacks, the trio enlisted the production help of kyle gilbride, who has molded the sound of philadelphia bands like waxahatchee, radiator hospital, and swearin’ over the past few years. while adhering to the live-take aesthetic of quarterbacks’ previous work, gilbride also managed to tweak the nuances of tom christie’s bass playing (see “not in luv” and “last boy” in particular) while simultaneously capturing max restaino’s perfect subdivisions. a comparison to cloud nothings’ jayson gerycz is warranted – at the very least in terms of accuracy and intensity – but restaino supplies that intensity without overpowering the rest of the quarterboys, an integral component of the band’s light-footed sound.
it’s momentarily disappointing that quarterbacks doesn’t offer even a taste of new material, but that doesn’t detract from the album’s overall quality. a whip-smart collection of nineteen songs, quarterbacks is the perfect vessel to deliver its namesake to a wider audience.