Ava’s Town: Damn the Kid’s New Freshman LP is Wondrous

If you’re familiar with Damn the Kid, you probably have some inkling as to what you should expect when you sit down to listen to Ava’s Town, their freshman LP. They’ve established quite the unique indie folk-rock sound in recent years. So like me, you’ll probably go into this album thinking you have some idea of what’s coming. And if that’s the case, you’re bound for the same lesson I took in while listening. You don’t know Damn the Kid. Not yet, anyway. And that’s as good a thing as good things get when it comes to music.

Damn the Kid is a band with a vivid story to tell. And they’re a band that has, in no uncertain terms, found a standalone voice to tell that story with. But inventors don’t typically come up with one idea and call it quits. They tuck into the lab and soldier on with fresh ideas. And that’s what you hear as Ava’s Town unfolds. They have their voice, and they know it. But they’re a band that’s forever growing. And it’s not just tinkering, but full-blown evolution.

That’s what makes Ava’s Town so wondrous. This is an album rooted firmly in that trademark Damn the Kid sound—indie rock fused seamlessly with folk, and sporting a hint of a drawl. But they build on that creative equity from start to finish not with trial and error, but with the surefooted findings of all that exploration.

Time For Work, American Spirit, and the title single Ava’s Town

The first track, Time For Work, is less an introduction to Ava’s Town than a creative shot across the bow. It opens with a steady and characteristically tone-rich bass line from guitarist Luke Brown (who also plays bass with the Neo Politans), which is coupled with a playful rock rhythm and an upbeat, colorful melody. Amber Winestock’s trademark vocals then prance in with surprisingly simple, repetitive lyrics that grow on you and resonate more deeply as the track unfolds. Damn the Kid bassist Raph Tombasco, delivers an excellent performance on the rest of the album, with the exceptions of this and Pretty Bird.

Damn the Kid fans will already know the second track, American Spirit, which was released as a single back in August 2023. There’s some commonality here with earlier Modest Mouse releases, and a guitar tone reminiscent of Jonny Greenwood’s work on Hail to the Thief. And when you couple that up with Winestock’s unique singing and lyrical voice, you land on one of my favorite Damn the Kid tracks. If hearing her belt “it’s all ashes” with enough raw power to tug a cargo ship across dry land doesn’t send a shiver down your spine every time you hear it, consider booking a session with a chiropractor.

And now for another of my favorite Damn the Kid tracks, and arguably at the top of that list. The title track, Ava’s Town, was released as a single last week, and … well, kids might be reading this review, so I’ll just say, holy fudgesicle. This is a band that has consistently impressed me since I first heard them live at Binghamton Porchfest 2022. And Ava’s Town, with its darkly energetic indie tone and seventy-billion layers of percussion, easily ranks amongst their very best work to date. The full band is firing on all cylinders here, especially Luke Brown and his mesmerizing guitar work.

Pretty Bird, Melody Lane, Robin Egg Blue

Pretty Bird—the fourth track on Ava’s Town—gives you a much-needed break from the first three high-energy tracks on the album … for a time, anyway. It begins as a surreal atmospheric track, with guitars coming at you in fades and reverses, before everything opens up into a groove that vaguely reminds me of the rhythm in 2080 by Yeasayer, but only barely. This is another track where Luke Brown steps in to deliver ideas on bass, and he really stands out on this track with his top flight bass grooves that help drive this track into serious earworm territory.

We haven’t mentioned drummer Nate Brown yet, who performs soundly through the first four tracks. But in Melody Lane, his fast breaks on the hats are so clean and energetic I honestly had to listen to this track more than once just to process everything else. Maybe that’s the drummer in me, but that beat is intoxicating, and pairs beautifully with this smooth indie rock track.

Robin Egg Blue takes us to the half-way point on Ava’s Town with gorgeous acoustic riffery that only barely gives you a chance to catch your breath. Amber Winestock’s singing never disappoints, but there’s a bit more depth and gravity to her voice than usual on Robin Egg Blue, giving this track an emotional drift that you feel as much as you hear.

Damn the Kid put on a seriously excellent live show, and Ava’s Town doesn’t disappoint

Into the second half of Ava’s Town: Give Up the Mountain, RaiNY, and Ocean

The seventh track is another one you may be familiar with. Give Up the Mountain was released as a single way back in 2021, and helped establish Damn the Kid as a formidable voice in the Binghamton music scene. It’s a quick-paced song with their rustic flavor and glorious gutshot lyrics that establish the band’s style in a triumphant way.

RaiNY served as the B-side on another single we’ll talk about a bit later, FNY. It’s an experimental track with Raph Tombasco dishing up wildly inventive percussion using miscellaneous items, including spoons, a trash can, and a beer bottle. Amber Winestock matches up this unique sound with vocals that sound almost caged through a loudspeaker. Not a lot of bands these days are putting together these sorts of experimental tracks, and I love it.

Ocean upholds the energy established earlier throughout Ava’s Town, while bringing the pace down slightly. But we don’t want to use the word “calm” here—Ocean is anything but, merely giving itself space for bright, powerful flourishes that sweep you away … well … like an ocean might. There’s that signature hint of rustic tonality here that’s so distinct to Damn the Kid’s sound, and helps them stand out as entirely different from anything else you’ll spot on the indie landscape.

FNY, Johanna, and The Next Q

We reviewed the album’s tenth song, FNY, back in April. And yes, this is still an absolutely stunning track that rivals any other on this exceptional album. I think a lot of our readers will connect with this song’s message that your hometown is what you make of it, and that no two people will ever see it quite the same way. That’s as applicable to Winestock’s NYC as it is to Binghamton, or Houston, or Ithaca, or Los Angeles. You might love it a lot or not at all, and you’re going to see it through a different set of eyes than anyone else might. Objectivity is always easier to reach on paper than in your day-to-day.

Johanna opens with a soft yet piercing synth and Winestock telling us a story of pure, heartbreaking poetry that motivates you to check in on someone you love. This is the most beautiful track on Ava’s Town, with piano, tube-driven guitar, and keys rinsing you with sound that intentionally goes off-kilter, ever so slightly, to heighten Johanna’s story that much more. And then comes the fire. Damn the Kid is geared like an 18-wheeler. Just when you think you’ve seen the precipice of their horsepower, they slap the clutch down and prove you wrong.

The final song on Ava’s Town yet again showcases the experimental adventure of Damn the Kid. The Next Q is haunting and intentionally disheveled, serving as the perfect bookend to this utterly Promethean album.

Damn the Kid tosses down a creative gauntlet with Ava’s Town

Like so many of the talented music acts that make up the Binghamton music scene, Damn the Kid utilize an entirely original sound that’s unmistakably unique to them, and only them. They weave indie rock from agrestic threads of heart-thumping folk, saturated with deep, intellectually rewarding lyrics spurred to life through Amber Winestock’s stunning vocal style.

Of course, we already knew all of that, through their live shows and the steady stream of singles they’ve released in recent years. But the way it all comes together on Ava’s Town, paced through those breaks of experimental atmosphere, transforms this album from a collection of songs into a singular work of beautiful expression. Like the rock operas of yesteryear, Ava’s Town can be interpreted as one movement, one story. A time capsule that captures a window of a person’s life and the observations they’re making in real-time as that chapter unfolds.

Ava’s Town will be available on Friday, June 21st. And if you appreciate bands taking creative risks as they further establish their signature style, it’s an album you need to go out of your way to sit down, listen to, and appreciate. Be sure to keep an eye on Damn the Kid’s Bandcamp and pick this up as soon as it’s available!

Amber Winestock of Damn the Kid, in a still from an upcoming music video