So much indie rock these days can feel so insular -- consciously separated from the larger world. But King Cobras Do, the fifth solo album from former Big Ass Truck singer/guitarist Robby Grant and fourth under the Vending Machine moniker, makes insular work in its favor. Recorded at the attic studio of Grant's Midtown house, King Cobras Do doesn't sound estranged -- it sounds homey, cozy. It radiates a unity of production, tone, and content.
The cumulative impact of this intimate album is that of an energizing hymn to domesticity in both its subject matter and musical spirit. With images of dancing in the den to daylight, the second song, "Rae," is a hand-clap-fueled love song to Grant's wife. The memories here are charmingly lived-in: "When you developed photos there/And we hung out and I sat in the chair/Nervous and scared around you" and "Remember when our room was just a bed."
The album-closing "Tell Me the Truth and I'll Stop Teasing You" is a delicate tribute to Grant's 2-year-old daughter. "The animal noises that you make never sound all that fake/It feels like there's an elephant in the room," Grant testifies, before a great little moment where he catches her yawning. And Grant's 7-year-old son makes a more tangible appearance, contributing some free-associative lyrics to "Babies" and "Saturn National Anthem."
On "Good Old Upstairs," Grant expands the theme with a personification of the attic home studio where the album was recorded. ("In my sleep, she nudges me/To come up and play around some more.") And, with his one-man band bolstered by an extended family of siblings (Grayson Grant), former bandmates (Big Ass Truckers Steve Selvidge and Robert Barnett), and friends (Jared and Lori McStay), the intimacy of the record is more inclusive than most bedroom pop.
Even the songs that don't take domesticity as subject matter -- the gently melodic acoustic/electric "Runaway"; the relaxed, toe-tapping "Desert Sun Played" -- sound like testaments to the creative comfort zone that home provides. The album feels like a spring breeze blowing through an open kitchen window; a front-porch packed with family and friends. -- Chris Herrington
Vending Machine play a record-release show for King Cobras Do Saturday, Feb. 3rd, at the Hi-Tone, with Jack O. & the Tearjerkers opening. Door opens at 9 p.m.; admission $5.