Despite their clandestine and controversial beginnings (two band members were teachers and two were students at the same high school), The Subjects have managed to carve a name for themselves that sounds more like "Rushmore" than "School of Rock." Back in 2002, guitarist Joe Smith and bassist/vocalist Dave Sheinkopf were splitting their time between writing songs and syllabi, while drummer/vocalist Matt Iwanusa and guitarist Jimmy Carbonetti were about to bust out of the same Manhattan school. Since both parties were in desperate need of a full band, they held some rehearsals and once it became clear that the quartet's chemistry was pretty damn combustible, the Subjects were born.Fast-forward a few years and things get a bit more complicated. The Subjects’ debut is dropped (2007’s With the Ease Grace Precision and Cleverness of Human Beings)and they hit the road, at first on their own and then with the Walkmen a few months later.“We were always serious about playing music,” says Iwanusa, “but when we started meeting and playing with bands that were making music for a living we got to see how they did it.”Keeping that career path in mind, the Subjects dove right into the demo stages for New Soft Shoe, firing up minimalist recordings in the style of their first full-length. Once those songs were ready for a proper studio, the band headed over to Key Club Recording Co. a couple hours outside Chicago. By working closely with Key Club’s masterful engineers, William Skibbe and Jessica Ruffins (see also: rock-solid releases from Cass McCombs, The Kills and Fiery Furnaces), the Subjects were able to whip up their wildest ideas, expanding their arsenal with everything from old-fashioned organs to honky-tonk pianos to Matt’s mom on saxophone.“A lot of the instrumentation on this record came from stuff I learned in school—stuff I never thought I’d use,” says Sheinkopf, citing his training in classical harmony.The first thing you’ll notice about the final product is the vocals—the way the melody in “Winter Vacation” unfolds like a spare Animal Collective A-Side; the brilliant shuffleboard beats/honeyed harmonies of “Right2Know.” Beyond that, the ep spreads the Subjects’ various strengths across the divergent tastes of four distinct songwriters in just 10 minutes. Well, divergent in terms of pulling cues from several eras and subgenres. All and all, the current state of the Subjects is as cohesive as a dictator-less band gets.“Most of the arrangements on the first record are within the constraints of a four-piece band,” explains Iwanusa. “Now everyone’s more comfortable trying to sing and play different instruments. We all stepped it up this time.”
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