Formed in Auckland, based in Brooklyn and referencing a Texan town in their band name, indie-folk outfit Streets of Laredo certainly sound like an eclectic group of individuals. However, their latest EP Lonsdale Line doesn’t suggest zaniness so much as a very conventional type of do-it-yourself enthusiasm over the course of its twenty-minute running time. Three of the five tracks featured on this album have the phrase “Bedroom Demo” in their titles, yet the production manages to sound equally polished on all five. Choosing to make most of the EP out of demos certainly helps contribute to the ramshackle down-to-earth sound Streets of Laredo are trying to cultivate.
Lonsdale Line is a strong opener with its guitars and harmonica setting the mood nicely. There’s nothing about it that seems revolutionary, but this kind of exuberant multi-instrument neofolk (especially with its emphasis on the rhythm section) suggests the band knows they’re not exactly reinventing the wheel and are content to pound away at what they know best. Girlfriend is slightly better, though it’s still sonically similar to the previous track. The extended instrumental section towards the end is a highlight full of catchy rhythms and some effective use of guitars amidst the clapping and vocalising.
I’m Living is the first of the so-called “bedroom demo” tracks; to this end, it’s also noticeably more subdued than the first two tracks. The emphasis is on the lo-fi guitar sound rather than loud rhythms, though the gradual introduction of percussion over the course of the song manages to sound organic nonetheless. Good production mixes with the song’s reserved tone to make for what’s probably the best track on here.
The EP’s lack of musical variety becomes noticeable with Need a Little Help, which is definitely the worst song on the album because it’s the first one that feels like an empty retread of the other tracks – even more so than the demo version of Lonsdale Line, a song we’ve literally already heard before. The demo version gains points for sounding audibly different to the finalised version (most notably by replacing the harmonica with an accordion). At the very least, it justifies its presence on the EP.
Like many a debut EP, Lonsdale Line showcases key musical strengths that are worn out by noticeable repetition – a factor that becomes much more of a problem considering an EP’s brevity. While having two versions of one song does seem like an attempt to pad the release out, here it actually works (though that could be because it’s better than ending the EP on its weakest track). It still remains to be seen whether or not Streets of Laredo can really distinguish themselves in the contemporary indie-folk scene, but Lonsdale Line shows they do have the potential.