Here are some recent things I’ve written for The Deli. (www.thedelimagazine.com)
If you’ve been sitting in your apartment dropping acid and watching Sergio Leone movies and wondering why there isn’t a rock band willing to be your theme music, wonder no more, for Spindrift is rolling across the badlands like Randall “Tex” Cobb in Raising Arizona, gunning for you. Spindrift haunts your dreams and fuels your nightmares like a sixgun-wielding chupacabra. One listen to “Speak to the Wind” or “Red Reflection” and you’ll be hopping the next old Chrysler to Mexico with a trunk full of guns, whiskey, mescaline and Mexican blackbird hookers. You might even fight a bandito or two. Or shoot a man in Fresno just to watch him die. These guys and girl are so cinematic they even have their own movie, The Legend of God’s Gun. It has two stars on Netflix, so you know it’s a quality flick. So mount up, muchachos. Tonight we ride.
Pet Ghost Project
Cheer Up ~ It’s Raining
The downside of DIY is that so many recordings sound the same. Given an infinite number of monkeys and an infinite number of guitars, you’ll end up with a lot of the same plodding, monochromatic excretions, not to mention a lot of flying poo. That said, if you wait long enough, you might eventually get “Celebrate Youth”* by Pet Ghost Project. It’s a five minute instrumental tour de force of everything that is great about a guy in his basement playing a lot of instruments, laying down Beach-Boys-on-a-budget harmonies and toying around with found sounds. But it’s just the overture; there’s songwriting smarts here as well. The all-too-brief “Violent Dreams” features a choir of fear and sadness. “Age of Automatics” has the requisite trading off between whispery verses and occasional bursts of histrionic glossolalia over a bed of buzzy electronics. And if walls of fuzz are your bag, “Mexican Apartment” has you covered.
* The Rick Springfield reference may or may not be intentional.
Ceiling Lights from Street
Glitchy, ambient electronic is trickier than it sounds. It might even be easier to make than punk rock, but that also means that doing it really well becomes twice as hard. At worst, it’s bland wallpaper. At best, it sustains a meditative mood of clarity. It suspends the world around you and makes you pay attention. You become more alert to the details. Ben Tweel of Build Buildings knows how to facilitate this musical mindstate. Tracks like “Letter Codes” and “Numbers” aren’t just recycled Boards of Canada brain paint, they’re more like synesthesia – the perceptual mixing of color and sound. Like hypnosis, you awake from them feeling refreshed and perhaps wondering why the clock is an hour ahead. It’s easy to criticize the genre for being tomorrow’s Muzak, but if that comes to pass, then the world will be better off for it. Maybe we’ll all pay closer attention to ourselves.
Everyone is Crying Out to Me, Beware
Setting aside the novelty of a girl from suburban Massachusetts opting to sing in her native Russian, and being aware of the fact that her album consists of cover tunes from the late Russian punk-folk singer Yanka Dyagileva, we are left with just the voice. It’s strong, and the comparisons to Cat Power are easy to make. Haunting female voices are a dime a dozen these days, but there is something else here. Defiance. Strength in the face of tragedy. Simone is more Edith Piaf than Chan Marshall, and while most people won’t know enough Russian to understand a word she’s saying, the vibe tells us everything we need to know. Sure, she’s singing someone else’s songs in a language we don’t understand, but that just leaves her all the more naked before us.
Sometimes a band comes along with its own mood, a feel that pervades every track. Take Crowded House for example – even their sunny songs had a lingering sadness to them. Lieutenant Marscapone has a similar thing, and like Crowded House, they specialize in two-part vocal harmonies, Everly Brothers style. Their tunes also have an almost ambient quality. Even when they’re amped up and fuzzed out, they maintain a constant, almost uncomfortable, melancholy. It’s like they know nothing good is going to come of this. This isn’t to say that they’re mopey, indie rock Eeyores, though. It’s some other flavor I can’t put my finger on. Mastering this level of maddening subtlety is certain to frustrate music writers, but don’t let that stop you from checking out cuts like “Lytic Cycle” and “Immobile,” two tracks that, like the cheese for which they are named, may require some time before the cream makes itself apparent.
You heard it here first: the Next Big Thing in indie rock is chamber music! For far too long, violinists and cellists have been confined to the texture corner of rock bands, or the gimmicky cover acts. Rarely does The Man ever let them actually compose songs with any compositional depth, because when they do, they get lumped into the bins where only the adults shop. Perhaps now is finally the time, since rock music as a cultural force is either dead or exceedingly smelly. Maybe there can be a day when the collective listening palettes of the nation’s young adults can become as diverse as they think they are. Perhaps someday we, as a country, will get over lyrics and timbre and start listening to notes and actual, you know, music. Until then, we have brave souls like Build, who can wrap peppy math-rock arrangements like “Magnet” together with ambient minimalism like “Imagining Winter.” At least NPR will play them.