Nearly three years after their first release, Durham's Actual Persons Living or Dead return with The Quiet Life, their second EP, effectively increasing the size of their catalog to 11 total songs. That pace might smack of inactivity, but the patience has served them well. In retrospect, the group's self-titled debut feels monochromatic and slight: Drummer Kerry Cantwell took an unobtrusive approach, while the thick bass lines of her husband, Dave, bolstered neither the melodic lead nor the rhythmic foundation. Instead, his own tuneful counterpoints sometimes muddied the record, as his musical interactions with guitarist and singer Joyce Ventimiglia felt a touch out of sync.
Three years must offer ample time to build chemistry, given The Quiet Life's fully formed sound. This time, the band's bass and guitar lines dance around each other nimbly, finishing each others' thoughts in lyrical patterns that are both understated and articulate. Sturdy melodies allow Actual Persons to play with newfound intensity, occasionally increasing the tempo beyond the first EP's steady amble and reveling in hefty distortion. This is refined and subdued indie rock, now with a laser-sharp focus paired to its proud veteran pedigree.
No song sums up this success better than "The Girl Who Trod on a Loaf." Following the first verse, the trio transitions into an extended instrumental interlude, Dave's bass punching playfully through Ventimiglia's ethereal riffs. The trio returns to the song's central progression with added vigor, fortifying fuzz into their burly force. Like the rest of The Quiet Life, the song benefits from dynamics and development that Actual Persons simply didn't have in its infancy.
Label: Potluck Foundation
This article appeared in print with the headline "Song surge."