Wednesday, November 30, 2011

RECORD REVIEWS - November 2011

The Loom - "Teeth"

It is of little surprise to me that one of my favorite bands comes to mind when I listen to the Loom. Like Woven Hand, the weaving theme is right there in the band's name. In both cases, the complex powerful music weaves in many intriguing elements to create a highly personal accessible brand of folk-rock music. In the Loom's case, they feature a fascinating series of sounds from brass, winds and banjo in addition to the rhythm section, guitar and keyboards. The vocal work is excellent with most leads from a male voice, but female harmonies and occasional leads only add to the quality. This mixture of urban, pastoral, Americana, and psyche-folk is reminiscent of some of my favorite Toronto bands such as Do Make Say Think. In all cases, the comparisons are more of spiritual tone and ultimate feeling as opposed to the specific sound.

This is powerful, exciting music when quiet or loud, grounded or psychedelic. There is no reason this band should not move up in the indie world with the far lesser bands that are there (along with the many deserved acts like Decemberists, Iron & Wine, Low Anthem, etc.). So get on board with this band now while they now begin the touring and album releases that will hopefully make them a household name.

Songs to try:

The Middle Distance - This song creates an urban psychedlia with its moving drums and wailing French Horn, along with the quick vocal work.

The First Freeze - Delicate folk song with longing brass. It does not sound like it is from the US, England, but has a more universal tone.

For the Hooves that Gallop, and the Heels that March - The title alone is worth a mention, but the song develops a quiet approach that allows for some strong psychedelic guitar moves to make their mark.

The Spinto Band - "Biba! One Island, 879 votes" soundtrack
From nearby WIlmington, Delaware, the Spinto Band comes to DC to the 9:30 Club this Thursday, December 1st. In addition to their whimsical pop music, they have released a soundtrack album for a documentary film. I will be reviewing the live show which will be my first exposure to this intriguing band, but for now here is what they did for the film "Biba!"

This soundtrack album indeed sounds just like a soundtrack album. It is instrumental with shorter mood pieces. As every aspiring soundtrack writer should aspire to, they do pull in the Ennio Morricone spirit whenever they can. "The Bandit" and "the Sheriff" are perfect examples of songs that would fit into The Once Upon a Time in the West sequel. Even the titles should have your brain turning on your favorite Morricone. But there are other styles that mix simple pop moves with a flowing rhythm that sound like they would work marvelously in a film. The "Battle Hymn of the Republic" finish shows how a simply plucked guitar can carry a nice tune while mysterious background music can push one into a dreamy environment. This all sounds quite different from the few songs I have heard from the band and it showcases both their skills and love of the soundtrack style which they have adapted to successfully. Honestly, I was not sure I would listen to this much more, but the quality of it begs for future listens, as well as the desire to pull out more of my soundtrack music.

The Fed - "Birth of the Pipesnakes" ep
If you have the longing for the classic big blues-rock sound that many bands employed from 1968 to 1972, then give these four songs a listen. I have enjoyed this local trio live and was interested to hear the studio work. They have that thick fuzzy rural base, but there is some really nice flowing guitar work. "'83" features some really clean guitar solos that stand out amidst the lovely murky vibe working. The vocal work has a classic feel and comes off as an asset and not just a tack-on, which often happens in this style of music. "Lifecycle (of an American rock and roll band)" has a snappy fun feeling to it. At their worst, these guys play solid blues rock. At their best, they add some nice psyche touches and skillful playing that transcend this classic rock music form into something fresh and invigorating.

The Jet Age - "Domestic Disturbance"

Good grind it out rock is again the musical theme here. Like the Fed ep above, this is music for real straight-on rock fans. However, this power trio delivers it in a more of a timeless manner. The blues and hard rock bands of old are within the roots of this music, but a more modern indie rock is also present. The balance is just right for those of us that have lived through both eras or those that don't care a lick for history, but simply love to rock out. The guitar solos are some of the best I have heard off any record I have heard recently featuring bands not named Opeth or Mastodon. This is a twelve song album, so there are bound to be some lesserer songs. And at times the vocal melody lines do not quite do justice to the instrumental parts. Lyrically, they have linked the songs into a theme of sorts, which is something that I tend to give bonus points for. This is a fine record and it sounds like it would be a real kick live. You can judge for yourself when they have their release party at Comet Ping Pong on December 9th.

Songs to try:

I am an Agent - Good opener contains all the successful elements the band can deliver in a real head swaying, foot tapping tune. Egad, there's even a brief drum solo!

Hey, Captain - Cool foot tapping beat, power chords and great fuzzy guitar solos. This reminds me of an unholy hybrid of Lyd and Christopher. OK, so this one is more rooted in the past (but still not entirely).

Some Nights - This has a nice poppy tone to it with just enough drive to retain their style while dropping it down a notch.

Les La Britanica - "Soft Swerve"

Every time I review a live band in the electronica or hip hop fields, I am reminded that I should probably employ more writers. I want to go to these shows and continue to expand my musical borders to the point where there are none. However when it comes to writing about them, I feel I am fooling no one. So it was with more than a little trepidation I approach a hip hop vocal duo doing their raps on top of full-out electronic music. The main success here for my personal tastes is that they do not keep things simple as I have seen with rappers that just spout out dull cliches or electronica acts that stare at a computer screen on stage. There are talented vocal moves that are quite musical without being either cliched in rap or pop. The electronics are complex enough but allow space for the vocals and the dynamics of the song. Unfortunately, some of the lyrics I could do without, but sadly I come to expect that here and in other genres as well. It is not so much being a prude as it is where I roll my eyes and say 'here we go again'. Thankfully there is enough variety, so that only happened a couple of times.

Songs to try:

Mind Control - The opener has a nice restraint to the electronics that allow the vocals to be very tuneful and emotive.

Cop Car - Vocal lines really work some magic on this one.

Les L Aye - Some more cool vocal lines with a Germanic electronica close. This is my favorite.

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