One of the hardest things about being attached to a smaller local music scene is when a promising act breaks up. It happens a lot. When Iowa City’s Molly Ringwald called it quits a year or so ago, I was pretty bummed. The flip side of that coin is that rarely do talented, interesting people stay off the stage for long. So welcome two-thirds of Molly Ringwald back into the fold, folks. Dustin Hamnes and Jake Mathesien find themselves part of a quintet making a similarly shaggy brand of music in Safe Words.
Where Molly Ringwald careened off the tracks like At The Drive-In colliding with Modest Mouse, Safe Words is decidedly more poppy. This is the kind of shaggy you can take home to Mama: playful piano trills, hints of front porch pickin’ ‘n’ grinnin’, a surprising amount of swing, and loads of harmonies–both sweet and shambling.
The new sound is almost all there in the second track, “House With a View.” The breaking yet sugary melodies, the almost twee coos and vocal affectations without losing the garage-honed bite.

Though, the true treat of Hollow Leg is “S’weather.” This off-kilter confection is a really wonder is like a blown-out, hazy wad of cotton candy. “S’weather” waltzes along on piano vamp with vocal interplay swaying somewhere between rockabilly and doo-wop. It’s already my most-played song of 2011 and I just scored this album a couple weeks ago.

But the true wonder, the beauty of Safe Words is how little time they wasted on saying the right thing. While the lyrical content is there, and it’s solid, Safe Words aren’t so much concerned with what is said but how much melody they can cram into three and a half minutes. Rarely has a pop band done so much with so few words. Almost every single song on Hollow Leg shines the spotlight on the oohs, aaahs, and coos. The wordless chorus is almost a rule here, and proves that if you’re infectious enough, we don’t need words to connect to, we can just let our hands dangle playfully out the car window as we shout the oohs and aahs to passing pedestrians.

You can download Hollow Leg for the astoundingly low price of nothing on Safe Words’ bandcamp site here.

And if you’re in Iowa City, you can catch the quintet twice over the next couple weeks:

5/5 (Tonight!): The Mill w/ Daniel and the Lion, John Paul Roney and The Boom Fores // 9 pm // $8
5/12: Blue Moose Tap House w/ The Olympics and Santah // 6 pm // $7