As a punk band that's increasingly found itself musically — and perhaps spiritually — outside of punk, Priests has had to make sacrifices. After three EPs and a single, the Washington, D.C., band spent the last two years on its debut album, Nothing Feels Natural. Worked out in practice spaces and during numerous tours across the U.S. and Europe, these songs were originally laid to tape in Olympia, Wash., but scrapped. In its five years, the band's members have become perfectionists, no longer content to present an unfinished version of Priests. Take it from someone who has watched these songs mutate live and knows that the band's hometown show always brings the damn fire: Nothing Feels Natural had to be recorded in D.C.
From the outset, "JJ" sounds familiar, with G.L. Jaguar's snaking surf guitar, Taylor Mulitz's ever-moving and subtly funky bass lines and Daniele Daniele's clipped and aerobic drumming. But there is something inherently stranger afoot, like a B-movie shown against a Frank Gehry building. (In a video directed by singer Katie Alice Greer, the mise-en-scène invokes that spirit, with the members being poked and prodded in a harsh light.) The pieces are in place, but they circle in and out of time with a rubber-band rhythm section and a newfound sense of space — not to mention an out-of-tune piano gone haywire.
"When I met you you were just a bad attitude," Greer sings. "You dated a model one time she stuck her finger in a light socket." If 2014's Bodies And Control And Money And Power EP explored how politics informed the band's personal lives, then "JJ" dives into the weirdness of the interpersonal — not offering solutions, just asking more questions, which has long been Priests' M.O. In the melodic mayhem, a "rich kid, low life in a very big jacket" becomes a stream-of-consciousness portrait of human relationships, particularly from a woman's point of view. Greer doesn't so much howl and scream but rather growls and coos like Eartha Kitt wound up and snapped into a surrealist punk rage.
Nothing Feels Natural comes out Jan. 27, 2017, on Sister Polygon.