“You put the goddamn strings in my hand!” moans Turtlenecked’s Harrison Smith on “Stradivarius,” the final track on his new album, Vulture. Smith’s accusatory tone suggests that he’s not entirely responsible for the complex visions coming from his brain. However, these hyperactive opuses are clearly the product of a singular imagination—one that’s reminiscent of an updated Phantom of the Paradise, complete with acidic plotlines and a diverse cast of characters.
Vulture teems with the familiar sounds of Smith’s favorite songwriters. “Harrison 2” grooves with a peppy Julian Casablancas cool, while the dusty swagger of “Human Veal” recalls Jeffrey Lee Pierce at his most desperado. Rivers Cuomo’s influence courses throughout the album as well, especially on “My New Necklace” and the tender melodrama “Meeting You in the Hospital.” Taken together, these examples form a highly compressed marble block of sonic inspiration that not only trumps the ambitiousness of fellow wunderkinds Car Seat Headrest, Kyle Craft, and the Lemon Twigs, but also boasts quicker stylistic turnover.
Equally impressive is the quality of the album’s sounds: The drums are towering and confident, the guitars drip with fuzzy venom, and Smith’s vocals fluctuate beneath each of his poetically conflicting personalities. Even the sprawling electro vamp “Tummy” is initially jolting, but eventually nestles within Turtlenecked’s swarming multiplex of ideas.
Vulture might not be the best thing you’ve ever heard, but some moments feel like an evolutionary step forward in the timeline of garage rock—it takes progressively cultured synapses to process Turtlenecked’s encyclopedic buzzsaw. The potential scope of this young Portland artist’s future soundscapes is a little frightening, but as long as he keeps producing dense, 35-minute explosions like this one, I’ll always be willing to listen.