Clogs may well have been put on this earth to frustrate genre sticklers. Centered around Padma Newsome and Bryce Dessner, the group’s music skirts the edges of contemporary composition and post-rock, purposely avoiding consistent summation. For every point at which the group achieved a familiar rock momentum (something Dessner, as one of The National’s guitarist, knows a thing or two about), there’d be another where they might head toward a more theoretical tangent.
Newsome takes the wheel on The Sundown Song, a three-song EP recorded in Mallacoota, a small town in western Australia. At times, they evoke a folk tradition, while at others (notably the title song) a more choral one. On opener “A Hobsons Choice,” Newsom’s voice suggests that he could pretty easily find a gig fronting an Anne Briggs covers outfit; he sings with a warm tone that recalls Labi Siffre, and the general mode is deeply, almost archetypically, pastoral. And the fuller use of vocals (courtesy of the Mallacoota Community Choir) on “The Sundown Song” lends it a warm, almost elegiac feel.
The band has hinted that this EP marks an end to the current incarnation of Clogs. In fact, on “The Sundown Song” Newsome even sings, “Time to move on.” It’s an unexpected note on which to do so; for the past decade, Clogs have been many things, but never this overtly retro. Then again, expectations have never been something Clogs cared for very much.