Yardwork songs used to seduce through sheer enthusiasm — this was a band so dialed into camaraderie and making joyous, anthemic noise that listeners were powerless against the pro-brotherhood tide. But what emerges on this tantalizing five-song EP is a band whose songwriting has taken small but significant steps forward, and in the process thrown even more light on the ability of songwriters Thomas Berkau and Bo White to craft enormous — and enormously memorable — pop hooks.
They've done this in part by addition through subtraction. Yardwork downsized to a five-piece, dropping the dual percussionists, streamlining the guitars and making ex-Minority Party member Chris Thomas an official bandmate on bass and guitar. The Berkau-penned opener, "TSB in Ocean Hell," marks their growth with verses that no longer feel crowded and instead allow room for Andy Thewlis' horn parts to shine. Horns highlight Berkau's "Day Cough," too, a vintage Yardwork barnburner whose headlong tempo (Taylor Knox sounds like five drummers here) ends in one of the band's posi-pop gang chorus declarations — "If I'm happy I'm not dying."
White's songs, too, have subtly transformed. "Fuming" opens gently, a John Lennon-like guitar riff helping to (at least initially) suggest the compositions on White's recent Same Deal/New Patrones LP. Quickly enough, though, the song explodes into a full-throated chorus accented smartly with thick piano chords. White's "Honcho & Lefty" wraps in two minutes, much like the frenetic "All Andy Were the Borogroves" from Yardwork's 2011 full-length, Brotherer. But here there's enough space for guitar parts and synth to stand out in the happy tumult. Yardwork best integrates these new-found nuances on "Beast Homes," a pro-worker declaration masquerading as a Pedro the Lion pop song.
The whole shebang rushes by in just 13 minutes — but of course that's before your finger calluses from hitting the repeat button.
The band will perform at Snug Harbor on Nov. 24.