Record Review: Melody at the Core of Latest from PVD’s Museum Legs

In All For Starting Over offers lush soundscapes and hidden meaning


Like a good novel, the narrative or intention in a good song is there and it will jump out when it’s good and ready. This is the sense I get when listening to the album In All For Starting Over by Museum Legs, the creative outlet for Penn Sultan (Last Good Tooth) and MorganEve Swain (Brown Bird, The Devil Makes Three). The record relaxes in the mid-tempos, never rushing or overindulging in accompaniment, over the course of nine songs that ebb and flow into each other in ways that carry a story in poetic and plainly delivered verses.

“The song-writing style comes from traditional folk or blues wherein the guitar line is the thing that carries us between verses. When the song starts to have a heartbeat and a voice, it will tell you what it needs. Like a fledgling. Peep peep!” says Sultan, who credits the animated classic film 101 Dalmatians as imparting pivotal wisdom. “The songs start as guitar and melody and lyrics. Roger says to Anita, ‘Melody first my dear, and then the lyrics.’ That stuck.”

For the most part, the LP is melody-based, resulting in lush soundscapes built on the sum of various instruments harmonizing over each other in directions both counter and complementary. Museum Legs bring a high-interest engagement into the various layers that each song reveals and then hides away again.

“The instruments on the records are played by myself, with MorganEve adding the vocals and violas and their respective harmonies,” Sultan explains. “Some songs have predetermined or imagined instrumentation, and others require experimentation, addition or subtraction during the recording process like trying on outfits.”

The drums on this record have some of the most expressive and characteristic turns of phrase of any instrument. The percussion mirrors, counter-balances, and creates its own space more as a solo instrument than a backing rhythm, heavily syncopated and vaguely world-beat-ish. Sultan muses, “Recording the percussion is seriously enjoyable. It holds a lot of power. It dictates what kind of feeling the song will have. My drum kit is in pieces so I have to record it in pieces. Layering one piece of drum at a time allows for the syncopation because I’m not limited by what my big dumb limbs are able to do at one time.”

The vocal melodies have a hypnotic quality and are heavy on rounds and counter-melodies, as well as off-the-beaten-track harmonies. Songs are jam-packed with very literary lyrics that remain unpacked, but seem to point listeners in a general direction starting with the album title and key phrases that are repeated in each track.

“Deep reads welcome,” invites Sultan, “The [Museum Legs] albums are built around a singular motif. If you were to read all of the album titles in order, they are each pieces of a larger song.  When I first was writing In All For Starting Over, it was about the moments or events that make people choose to start over. Then the pandemic happened. It seemed like the world had a unique opportunity to start over, but we didn’t take it all. So, the next record is in the final stages and is entitled …and Over and Over. It is about repeated behavior, missed chances, and the incessant spinning gears. Alternatively and optimistically, it’s never too late to start over even if it means eating the cost.”

Find Museum Legs’ discography on Bandcamp and other music platforms. Follow the band on Instagram @museumlegs



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