ROTARY CLUB "Second Year in Swine"
Even before I learned about the Boston connection with the chief songwriter, I heard a Sebadoh sound in the opening cut. But Rotary Club sounds far more Type A personalities with the vocal work in their songs. Still, there are plenty of introspective moments on these songs as well. And although this band based out of Brooklyn fits comfortably in the indie rock realm, there are plenty of propulsive songs that twist and turn away from the crowded pack. "Capsule" as mentioned below reminds me a bit of the Pixies' "Gouge Away" but with more restraint. This band's ability to stand on the precipice of abandon, yet maintain the integrity of the song is what makes them intriguing. The band's producer is Tony Maimone, who played bass for the brilliant Pere Ubu, and who knows his way around a studio. Whether he inspired some of the quirky moments here, or (not so) simply knew how to help capture them does not matter as long as they come through loud and clear. I hear urban twists and rural twang working their way together in unique ways (even some Meat Puppets moves in here). A local bonus is that Gordon Withers (of local greats Office of Future Plans) plays cello here. This is one sharp band and they have made a fascinating record that can only provide even more unique layers to uncover as I listen further. And listen more, I shall. Now, if I can stop kicking myself for missing their local appearance here a few weeks back.
Songs to try out first:
Diminishing Returns - Lovely vocal melody with alternating guitar and bass punctuation, and are those tubular bells I hear? This is an extremely catchy song.
Multicolored Rings - Long flowing song with stinging guitars, low rumbling toms, and a strong vocal. The chorus is a nice surprise, too.
Capsule - There is that great sense of psychedelic landscape conjured up in this song with moments reminding me of a blending of the Pixies and the Flaming Lips
JEFF BEAM "Be Your Own Mirror"
Following a great Velvet Lounge performance, I have the privilege of consuming Jeff Beam's recent solo effort. Although he plays with a band called Milkman's Union, he has found time to record this fine album. He gets a little help from his friends here and there, with a bit of emphasis on strings. Reviewing his live performance, I made the main point of saying that I really liked this 'real person' gutsy brand of psyche-folk a bit more than the 'finding your inner hippie' stylings of Devandra Banhart or Joanna Newsome. I should explain that I think those two have done some great things, but their style has been aped far too frequently by lesser talents fiddling about with their twee, overly cute variations. The free folk movement got a little ahead of itself and seemed to recede as quickly as it came about. Thankfully, there are additional ways to relive some of the great psyche-folk sounds of the past with newer artists like Jeff Beam who by no means are merely copying the Incredible String Band or Stone Angel. Beam has plenty of jarring electric guitar that cuts through the spacey rhythms and ethereal falsetto vocal work. There are twists and turns along this pleasantly paced trip through folk and rock paths that will have you coming back for several relistens. Even if psyche-folk is not as deep in your DNA as it is with me, you should still find great melodies and plenty of style to keep your attention.
Songs to try out first:
Hospital Patience - Syd Barrett meets the Hush Arbors done in andante at the beach on the clouds.
Part One - Much more heaviness in the spirit of Mighty Baby as opposed to the loner stoner folkies.
Congratulations on Your Latest Achievement - Delicate acoustic guitar, strings, electronics... Did Neu! ever try psyche folk? No, I didn't think so, but...
TEEN MOM "Mean Tom"
I have enjoyed the personal approach that Teen Mom has taken in their sound the few times I have seen them. They go for a dreamy pop sound with just enough bite to keep a rock fan like myself listening. This six song ep captures their diverse elements and offers strong production to strengthen the diversity while keeping it unified. The first song "You and Me" captures them as I remember them with a really nice hook and involved vocal tones. The second tune "Always Happy" seems to go into a non-descript pop locale before some strong fuzzy guitar roars into the picture. This is the contrast that is hard to pull off, but they manage it with great skill here. The next few songs are a bit more locked in with a shoe gaze feeling worked into the mix. "Say My Name" has a lovely flowing melody that is as inviting as anything they have put out. "Gehry" has a more standard pop sound and finishes things off on a snappy note. The vocal work reminds me a bit of the Three O'Clock and maybe there is a touch of the old paisley scene in here in general. Whatever Teen Mom has in their DNA, they represented themselves well with this fine EP.
NORTH OF CANADA "Every Seahorse Could be Different"
This sharp local band has put out a short album or a very long EP depending what you want to call seven songs totaling more than a half hours worth of music. The band instantly grabs hold of whatever pop affectations you have with their opener, "Modern-day St. Peter". The two vocals weave together in a slightly ajar manner, and when you couple that with the rock and pop moves on guitar, they create one of the sharper hooks you will hear. "Let's Go Out Tonight" starts off even more rocking, but vocally goes into an agreeable pop mode. The songs shift around nicely throughout this set and although some work better than others, there is always a good rock vibe or pop hook that keeps the interest level high. And "Falling Down" closes things out wonderfully with its gutsy raucous chorus and descending guitar chorus. This local band may be aiming for north of Canada, and to me that means they are trying to stay north of some of the great pop/rock bands from Canada like Sloan or the Nils. As long as they can play songs that have me thinking of those two great bands, they are doing something right.
SILO HALO "Night and the City"
This local band is on the rise and seems to be doing everything right. I have seen them live a couple of times and was quickly impressed by their original twists and turns in the modern psychedelic underbelly of deep and dark indie/shoegaze music. And if anything, this first album is even more impressive as they have succeeded in capturing their live magic in these eight songs. They have been on bills with Screen Vinyl Image, and it is easy to hear that they are blood brothers and sisters in a shared sonic universe. You may hear something akin to Wire, Sonic Youth, School of Seven Bells, Big Black... you get the idea. But while the sound is familiar, the full approach is personal and powerful. This music oozes artiness in the right way by avoiding pretension and staying focused on creative accessibility. There is a history of these sounds are present that is being shaped by three creative people. There is a buzz to this band that is quickly spreading. Latch on quickly or it might go by you.
Songs to try out first:
Out of your Fugue - This has that magical weird psyche folk English vibe going on that I get when I listen to Ferdinando/Howell bands (Agincourt, Ithaca, etc.), yet it is more modern and sharply attuned.
I'm Still Slamming My Head Against a Brick Wall - Despite the great title, this song rocks hard, steady, and fully in control with silky vocals.
Night and the City - I conjure the forlorn look of Gene Tierney as she listens to the hopeless schemes of Richard Widmark in this heavily atmospheric instrumental.