Baltimore Backlog is less an album than a data dump, and that’s not an insult but merely a statement of fact. When Dave Fell, a bassist and keyboardist who’s logged time in local bands like White Life and Adventure, released the collection of solo recordings to BandCamp as a double cassette or digital download earlier this year, he noted:
i have lived in baltimore for 3 and 1/2 years. in that time i have released nothing. so here is a collection of songs i made in the rooms i have occupied, all at various stages of completion. i just want them to live somewhere else other than an itunes playlist causing an itch in the back of my brain.
Fell is perhaps being too humble. Although one can hear Baltimore Backlog as a hastily assembled clearinghouse, with 17 home recorded tracks of wildly varying styles and quality spilling out over the course of nearly an hour, it’s also perhaps one of the best such collections you’ll ever hear from a relative unknown. Fell, who previously led the band Pearly, has a high, reedy voice that suits the slight soul bent of his lo-fi pop, as well as a gift for funky, syncopated basslines. The keyboards and drum loops suffer from the same kind of tin and thinny textures as many records from the Baltimore warehouse scene, but given the ambition of Fell’s songwriting and the demo origins of these records, it’s easy to imagine him someday finding a fuller sound for this music.
“Bad Scene” and “Shadow Casting” make the best case for Fell as a promising songwriter and vocalist on Baltimore Backlog, with big irresistible hooks bursting out the tracks. For much of the collection, though, even the more seemingly ‘unfinished’ or experimental tracks have their charms. “Death Master File” vamps repetitively but appealingly on a simple groove with multi-layered vocals, while “Both Hands” builds from wordless a cappella and gradually brings in a minimal drum pattern.