Who: Married folk punk duo from Portland, Or.
What: Two new records; Perfect Recipe for a Smile + Don’t Let This Smile Fool You.
Why: Because you should listen to good, honest, sincere music.
The first of the two new records Perfect Recipe for a Smile captures the duos live setting perfectly. Seeing Destroy Nate Allen play four times at Cornerstone 08’ made me fall in love with them. The charm and intimacy at their shows are what makes the performances so wonderful. Armed with just a guitar and a few shaken percussion instruments, Nate and Tessa sing about their relationship and other things.
The opening track on this record, Anchors Away, sounds like the opening song to a live show. “Turns Out Your Perfect For Me” sounds like what Against Me’s Cavalier Eternal should of sounded like. A love song with boy and girl vocals about how in love with each other they are. “Recipe” is a cute song about cooking, but the first time I heard it, I found a great metaphor for the chorus. The recipe could be falling in love. The chorus says “Follow the recipe the first time that you do, after you do that you can add things to it, follow the recipe the first time that you do it, after the first time there’s nothing to it.” I don’t know, maybe my metaphor is terrible, but it’s a good song, I promise. “Loving You” is a, you guessed it, love song about the couples relationship. The great thing about this record is that they don’t mess with their formula, they know what works, and they know how to work it. The old saying goes, if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it, and Destroy Nate Allen is in perfect working condition. Live show sing-a-long “White Flag” is present here. It was previously on Take it Easy but with Tessa singing along it adds a whole new depth to the song. Songs “His lips are sealed hallelujah” and “Despite it all” show that Nate and Tessa know that their formula works and they know how to use it. Splitting vocals or singing together and bare acoustic guitar are all this couple needs to have a good time. It really shines through on “Despite it all.” The next song “Steady” reminds me of "Soco Amaretto Lime" by Brand New. Not musically, but just the feelings and the way you can connect with the words. “ I am Alive” is a song about being alive. It reminds me of a 60’s folk song Phil Ochs could of sang. It’s not a protest song and it doesn’t really tell a story but sonically it feels like it could have been written in the same area as Ochs or Dylan. Album closer “Smile” is a slower number with minimal strumming. During the chorus Nate and Tessa sing “Smile, Smile my friend, this is the end.” It’s a beautiful way to end the album. Honestly, if I die and get into Heaven, if this song is playing, eternity will be wonderful.
All in all, this album reminds me of my youth, not because it mentions anything from my past, but because of the repeatability of it. After listening to this album three times in a row, I got this strange feeling like I had just witnessed something wonderful. Sure enough, if you listen to this album you’ll get the same feelings.
“Don’t let the smile fool you” is just Nate and his grandfathers banjo.
Phil Collins - great song, great melody, and it will get stuck in your head for days. Might be the strongest track. When Nate sings, “You make every single day a holiday” you can tell he means it. This is a great opener to a record that could easily bring you back to the 1950’s with Woodie Guthrie train hopin his way across America.
The next few songs are just cute love songs to Tessa. Breaking strings, getting older, or just a song about his smile, Nate can really capture his feelings with the words he writes. If you’ve ever seen this duo live, you’ll completely understand the song “Guitar Strings.” I’ve seen Nate break a guitar playing live, nonetheless, just the strings. “Glow in the Dark” is a beautiful love song about holding hands and being in love. With Lyrics like “Hold my hand, we’ll grow in the dark together” really let you know how in love Nate really is.
The Song “How to make a Girl cry” is the LOVE song of this record, sure all the songs are love songs, and make you think of how happy and perfect for each other this duo is, but Nate sings directly to Tessa in this song, and it really lets you into the relationship. Like I said, Nate can capture any moment beautifully with this choice of words.
“Grandpa” will pull on your hearts strings simply because Nate’s singing to his grandparents while playing on this grandpa’s banjo. The lyrics sound like they were written to his grandparents after they passed. It’s a beautiful way to communicate to his loved ones that he may or may not have in this world anymore. The next two songs are just songs about Nate’s life. They are both about suffering but they are sung the only way Nate knows how. Honestly.
Pardon Song is the album closer. It’s a cute love song, but it doesn’t have the desperation the rest of the album does. They might sound like a negative thing but its not. It’s simple and lovely. It’s about riding a bike, but not really. The songs about life and how sometimes it necessary to slow down the ride you’re taking and put things into perspective. Everyone needs to hear that every once in a while.
All in all, Nate is magical. Tessa is magical. Not like a magician but more like those memories you have that always put a smile on your face. Nate and Tessa are timeless, and honest and sincere, and an absolute joy to listen to. It could be a fun folk-punk record or just a great stripped down record with just a banjo and Nate’s voice. Lovely people making lovely songs. What more could you ask for? The only thing I can think of is more songs from this great duo. Pick up these records and the rest of their releases. You won’t be let down.