Eric Chenaux has been kicking around the Toronto music scene for nearing two decades now. He's released work and performed both as a solo artist, and alongside a huge stable of different artists and groups, including Sandro Perri, The Reveries, The Draperies, and Drumheller. After starting out in the punk rock scene, his style has morphed over the years, and Sloppy Ground finds him continuing the semi-fragmented, bluesy rock style that he worked out on Dull Lights, his debut for the Constellation Records label.
One big difference, though, is that this newest release is much more accessible than previous work, although it's still prone to long, sprawling guitar solo flights of fancy and other fits of experimentation. At times during past releases, though, these flights would often veer completely off path, where Sloppy Ground always manages to sound like it's heading somewhere with more of a purpose. The impressionistic "Am I Lovely" opens things, and wheezes of accordion, spare percussion, and some sketchy guitar loosely spool together as Chenaux adds reflective vocals that add another breathy layer. "Love Don't Change" lopes forward with a bit more of a rhythm, but even it feels drunk and woozy as multiple layers of guitar twang and hiccup along before launching into an amazing guitar solo section that lets off a few sparks without ever really getting too loud.
Along the way, a trio of tracks tap into the same sort of gassed-out summer feeling as the opener, and their titles all fittingly nod to the evening (with "Arms, Legs And Moonlight" even containing a field recording of crickets). Mixed in with these quieter songs are slightly more rocking tracks, but as mentioned above, nothing really blows out the amps. Musically, "Have I Lost My Eyes" is one of the most interesting, with sitar and strings blending with the guitars to give the track a touch of psych feel, while "Boon Harp" melds oddly catchy vocals to an odd time signature and a soft tension as rolling snares keep time under a wonky melody. Unconventional and enjoyable, Sloppy Ground is another nice step forward from Chenaux.