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Plaza is the third album by Quilt; a name implying a meeting place, a crossroads, a coming together. In the space of ten songs, Plaza clarifies Quilt's musical stance of a congregation, mixing folk, pop-psych, and wanderlust into a common ground where each form takes on the characteristics of one another to create something wholly satisfying, styles and sentiments hand in hand, the purest and sharpest distillation of Quilt's group aesthetic to date.
Plaza came together through the happy collisions of friends, family, and well-wishers, individuals who came to realize that home for one is escape for another. Quilt had made its home on the road for the better part of 2014, coming to rest in Atlanta for three weeks by a collaborator of sorts. A bizarre cosmic boomerang had led them here: while on tour in Oregon, the band randomly met a man named Matt Arnett who turned out to be responsible, along with his father, for the "Quilts of Gee's Bend" traveling art exhibition from which many of the quilts were sourced as visual material for Quilt's first record in 2011. The serendipitous meeting led the group to stay in touch with Arnett, who in turn invited the group to start demoing and constructing new material at his Grocery On Home; the historic building near Atlanta's Grant Park district in which Arnett hangs his hat.
Here, the group constructed new songs and breathed life into older material, returning home with a fresh batch of demos that spanned the gamut of Quilt's existence, from deep in the vaults to those written weeks before recording, from reel to reel tapes captured in Cambridge, MA, from hurried voice memos sung alone on the Taconic Parkway, from the back streets of Jamaica Plain and Baltimore, from layered and crisp laptop demos in New Jersey, from the tips of near-forgotten lovesick memories in an Italian horse stable, and from a bout of cabin fever along the upper Hudson river. Preparing these notions alongside the group was Plaza producer Jarvis Taveniere, who joined the band upstate to begin pre-production and solidify a group of songs before heading down to Brooklyn for recording.
On Plaza, Quilt has pivoted their sound on a new foothold. The guitars shimmer, squawk, warble, swell, and tense up. The organs and synths flow in the background as mood-enhancers. The drums dig in a little deeper. We hear flutes and harps, a string quartet, grand pianos and Casios, feedback and distorted violas. Among all these sounds the group's shared and solo vocals showcase some of the strongest lyrics and hooks the band has made to date.
Plaza showcases a tighter, more concise version of Quilt, particularly as the members have learned to encourage each other's strengths and allow each other to confidently exist as distinct voices cooperating within a very intimate creative space; their songcraft has tightened up, their singing now crystal clear, vis á vis personal experiences of loss, frustration and isolation. Insofar as the band has matured, they also hedge no bets when it comes to grounding themselves in a new Real. Founding members Shane Butler and Anna Fox Rochinski, who've written the bulk of Quilt's material, opened up to new horizons on Plaza through with the aid of drummer John Andrews. New bassist Keven Lareau crafted rolling, tasteful, Danko-esque bass lines that dove right into these songs; on Plaza, we hear Quilt's rhythm section as a true, full force for the first time in their history.
Where Quilt's previous album Held in Splendor often concluded lyrical passages with thematically positive closure, Plaza sometimes allows the threadbare edges of sadness to linger, yet maintains a confidently buoyant spirit throughout, moving through the unsettled moments between the beginning and end of an otherwise perfect day; those encounters that keep you up at night in fits and spurts of restless sleep; an unknown face caught in a second of happenstance, and the song penned following the affair's untimely end.
Plaza is a meeting place of possibility, a rest stop of American life and all that it encompasses, in which Quilt's members found themselves countless times during their trips across the country. It is a drive to the oasis that's been wrung dry thousands of times, left raw and highly flammable, dedicated to those who have grown tired searching for what keeps them momentarily satisfied.