Crossword Smiles – Pressed & Ironed LP

Crossword Smiles is an indie-pop band with a jangly retro feel. They make perfect little pop gems that please the ear while giving you plenty to dance to. A case in point is Parallel Lines (seen/heard here) from their new LP, Pressed & Ironed, due September 16, 2022. Parallel Lines shares the musical stage with 9 other varied tracks. There’s something for everyone here, but mostly these are mid-tempo numbers with great melodies and harmonies. There’s enough textural difference between tracks to keep the listener engaged. 

Before I start, I’d like to shout out to the producer of the set of music, Greg Addington, and say thank you, for not blowing the production values through the roof. It’s getting to be a common theme for me, listening to music and discarding it because it is pushed too far to the top. It’s nice to have a set of music that still believes that music production should be a well-balanced affair, leaving room for the listener to adjust volume, bass, and treble. Well done!

Pressed & Ironed cover
Crossword Smiles – Pressed & Ironed

Pressed & Ironed kicks off with the marching guitar introduction of Feet On The Ground. Lyrically, this song is about keeping your perspective, being realistic, and not taking success for granted. A fine sentiment to be sure. This Little Town teeters on the threshold of country pop, with the viola and violin added for texture (Rod Capps). It’s about the dark underbelly of a little town and reminds me tangentially of the theme of the 1986 movie Blue Velvet. What you see on the surface doesn’t tell the whole story.  Memories of love lost enshrine October Leaves, with a mournful little melody to accentuate things nicely. When I first heard the intro on Parallel Lines, it immediately took me to Joe Jackson’s great track, Look Sharp. I laughed when in the liner notes, for the LP, I read this:

“So, here we find ourselves, sidled up at the bar like a few regulars, sipping our quickly warming beers at an Ann Arbor saloon. Between exchanging glances with the insanely busy bartender, we are extolling the virtues of Joe Jackson’s Look Sharp. …”

Parallel Lines is followed by Where’s The Sense which extols the virtues of taking a chance on love, and how not doing so can break a heart. The melody here is simple but beautiful and will have your head bobbing to the beat. Lotus takes off like a full-on rocker and then backs off to a plodding mid-tempo while keeping the driving guitars. Lotus is again about going for it, about having a vision for what you can be and taking yourself further than the vision. With pedal steel (Dave Feeny) added throughout, Walk Softly is as close to a ballad as you’ll get on Pressed & Ironed, and is all about unhurried love:

“Your voices are growing
Your spirit is flowing
You’ll always come back to me

Your choices are knowing
Your hands overflowing
You’ll always come home to me

Walk softly
Tread lightly here
Walk softly
Tread lightly here

Our hands are together
This we can treasure
Our hearts are as one tonight

The path can be blurry
We’re not in a hurry
Our minds are as one tonight”

The Girl with a Penchant for Yellow, Second Guesser, and Take It on the Chin, round out the collection.

Crossword Smiles
Crossword Smiles

Crossword Smiles are Tom Curless (guitars, drums, keyboards, vocals) and Chip Saam (bass, guitars, vocals). Throughout this collection, Crossword Smiles are joined by other musicians that help to round out the sound. Previously mentioned above were Rod Capps (viola, violin) and Dave Feeny (pedal steel). Others include Joel Boyea (keyboards) October Leaves, and (guitars) This Little Town; Greg Addington (keyboards, guitar) Parallel Lines and (guitars) on The Girl with a Penchant for Yellow and Second GuesserJohn Lowry (keyboards)(effects) on The Girl with a Penchant for Yellow.

You can find more information on the band by visiting their Big Stir Records label page, which includes a nice bio and preorder information for the LP in CD, vinyl, and digital download formats. You can also follow the band on their Facebook and Twitter socials. 

Musically, you won’t find much new ground broken on Pressed & Ironed, but the execution, melodies, harmonies, and production make it worthy of your purchase. Full of pleasing pop goodness and a retro feel, Pressed & Ironed hints at the past while bringing on a sound that is very much now. Check out Crossword Smiles today!