It’s strange to think of ex-lovers in terms of how they rank compared to one another, but perhaps there’s some truth and treasure in having a “best ex.” It could be a former partner who will jump your car when your battery dies, or one who has no ill intent when comforting your hurting heart with your favorite bottle of rosé and an LCD Soundsystem record, or simply the one that shines brightest in your memory, even if the timing wasn’t right. Ann Arbor/Ypsilanti/Detroit minimalist DIY rock quartet Best Exes tap into the estranged sincerity of having loved, moved on and lingered in a city that bursts at the seams with former flames and new sparks on their new cassette release Cactus.
Short and sweet, Cactus is cozy equivalent of saddle shoes, a borrowed sweater and organic cigarettes. Best Exes encapsulate that nuanced innocence by means of lo-fi guitar twang, endearingly uncertain vocal harmonies and retro bass lines that nuzzle fuzzy percussion. The playfully combative “Weird Kind of Nice” could read as a texting conversation, politely begging to feel anything other than alone. Vocalist Jim Cherewick channels early Caleb Followill; when paired with Linda Jordan’s pacifying, nasally charm Best Exes feels like a less literal She & Him – thoughtfully cluttered and platonically tepid.
This observation is particularly true for the last half of the record. The track “Friends” repeats Exes’ pleasant theme of colloquial cadence with 50’s sock-hop flare. “Oh Well” is a bit more verbose and emotively physical, reading like a lengthy letter about the wrongs of the other (Jordan sings of infidelity and throwing a lamp across the room) and is possibly the most openly conflicted track from these real-life characters. The final track, “Blessing” is undoubtedly the most well-rounded and fearless example of the pop-infused, passive torment of Cactus. Though embedded throughout, Cactus‘ disguised nostalgia is not always pleasant and its foreseeing of the future is not always easy to swallow. However, Best Exes’ collective ability to compose lovingly languid tales of self-searching through exploration of previous exploits make the big picture feel less small.
Don’t text your ex! Instead, take a listen to Cactus via Best Exes’ bandcamp: