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The Novelists: Book One

Something has come to my attention, and that is The Novelists’ album Book One. For reasons I can’t explain, I haven’t previously given The Novelists a chance, so let me be the first and most likely, only person to apologize on my behalf to the aforementioned parties. Your work on this album is nothing short of incredible.

Fans of music with long memories might remember adult-contemporary pop bands like The Beautiful South, Marc Cohn, or Mike + The Mechanics (and many, many more.) These were musicians’ pop bands where the point was to deliver an incredibly clever piece of music with lyrics that really make you pay attention. The production values really matter. The style of music the band plays varies based on whatever song they’re playing. It needs to sound great and have something interesting about it.

This album by this band has that quality.

To find out the lineup of this band, I looked them up on Facebook. It turns out this band includes Justin Kruger, who was a member of the incredible jazz fusion band The Electrosonics some years back. I find this out after I have already started rocking out to this album, and it certainly makes me feel like the dots connect. Talented people who love what they do can acheive amazing results.

New to my ears are the voices of Megan Slankard, Eric Andersen, Joel Ackerman, and Zac Teran. They all shine on this album. Production quality of this album is high. The vocals are well recorded, the lyrics are very well written and the instruments are played very well and everything is mixed perfectly.

The album’s first track, Morris & Estelle, sets the stage for what the band are going for. Piano, guitars, drumming and time signatures too elaborate for me to count blend together with lyrics that are intended to tell an actual, digestible story. They pull it off well.

The duets are one area where this band shines where other bands might have a hard time. Pattern and I’m In No Pain couldn’t be more different except for the fact that they are both sung by both a male and female vocalist. On Pattern, the production capabilities of the band are on display, as the songwriting lends itself well to going back and forth between the two vocalists, and the hooks and bridges are very tight and pull everything together. I’m In No Pain is a piano-and-strings ballad that would sound at home on the radio.

While most of the songs are focused on relationships and other love-related topics, four songs take on a philosophical dimension, mostly relating to self-empowerment. You Will Know My Name is about religion. They Will Follow is about self-empowerment. Above the Hiding is about getting outside your comfort zone and doing your thing. Finish Line is about how the work is never done. The clever lyrics and tight arrangements on these songs are more good examples of what this band is capable of.

The band don’t get every song right. The lowest point on the album is War Paint, a song that should be a standout hit, but which makes a great lyrical error about 2/3 of the way through and to my hears, hardly ever recovers. This is unfortunate, because the singing and the piano playing really set a powerful mood, and it meets, by some definition, Phil Collins’ law that a pop song should state something universal in a universally digestible format. “A simple idea, simply sung, that simply sounds like it was sung with conviction.” This song shoots for that by saying “I miss you all the time, I miss you in my life,” and while this is something everyone can identify with, the rest of the song tells an incomprehensible story. Another song that falls a little flat to this reviewer’s ears is No One Watching Us. There’s nothing terribly wrong with the song, it just doesn’t measure up to the quality of the rest of the work on this album.

Regardless, this band is tacking close to the winds of the Collins Law, and they pull it off almost perfectly with We. This is a song of a life together ending that comes across very straightforwardly, and manages to be a worthy torch song. Worth a listen.

It’s refreshing to hear music by a band that’s got something to say, and manages to say it while getting important performance aspects right. Hopefully The Novelists will have more to say soon.

TV Covered Walls!

Hopefully not too late to the party here, but a bit of noteworthy music of the shoegaze-influence variety just came to my attention. I present Reno’s own, TV Covered Walls. This is well played, well-produced shoegaze, always a nice surprise in Reno.

Have a listen, won’t you?

Farewell, 2014

It’s time to send out 2014. On this site, I wrote almost nothing, but at least I got that thing about My Flag is on Fire off my chest.

Somehow, I missed this, or I probably would have posted about it. So, while it’s still the same year this material claims to have been released…

If it was a lo-fi year for you, maybe you’ll appreciate this. It’s the Instagram filter of music, and it’s welcome. If it was a hi-fi year for you, and you just need to lean back for an hour or so and drift in and out of consciousness, this’ll do, too. Good work, whoever.

I’ll try to keep the lights on here.

We’re Post Pop. It’s about time.

I’ve had a tortuous relationship with the band My Flag is on Fire, for quite a while. Actually, since the release, and subsequent abandonment of the sound on their eponymous EP. I respect the band immensely, enjoy their music when I hear it, I like songs off all their albums, but they haven’t released a collection of songs that I wanted to listen to from beginning to end without skipping since the EP.

Phew, it feels good to get that off my chest. I’m here to tell you something. They’ve done it again. They’ve made an album I want to listen to the whole way through, that is. That album is their new one, Post Pop.

Let’s start off with the most dramatic change in direction for this band in years. Songs is a sweet number that, at just under 5 minutes in length, is a pretty short MFioF song. (Hey, that’s just how it is.) Synth pads play a prominent role; this song feels decidedly electric and dare I say, organized in advance. With some horns that key to White Bicycle, this song seems to be tying all kinds of dimensions of this band’s sound into one song.

Then there are the songs the band recorded years ago. Doom Decibels & Destruction seems to be telling us, “this is a way that these songs can sound.” And Harmony seems to be saying, “… and here’s a less electric take on an old classic.” I Quit is reimagined as a country ballad. (It fares well.)

There’s new material working here, too. In Un-titles, we are requested to please “don’t fuck with my heart.” Absolved is pretty and short.

Urban Farms is a number that mixes prog and folk influences. With this 9-minute track, you’re listening to My Flag is on Fire at their best. It’s a completely new sonic dimension for them, but it uses things that you know they’re good at using. It unites the accordion and electric guitar and synthesizer instincts of this diverse group of musicians better than any previous effort.

This album has some other interesting things. For example, on Natural Love, it sounds like the band is mixing Weezer influences (Island in the Sun) with The Cure (Just Like Heaven.) They get away with it.

Rounding out the mix, New Classic gives us a moment’s pause to bask in melody and soul… albeit from a melancholy point of view. It’s a big song, and it really showcases the diversity of compositions that this group of musicians is capable of arranging and performing.

If this album has a theme, it’s that the old is new, and so is the new. Effortlessly mixing musical styles from the band’s influences as well as the band’s past, this is quite an album. Highly recommended.

Surf Curse know what Rock ‘n Roll is all about

Here, have some music.

One reviewer once said of Jason Falkner’s song, I Live, paraphrasing here, that it is a song that pretty much encapsulates what rock ‘n roll is all about.

The reviewer was only part right. Jason’s right on target with part of what rock ‘n roll is all about. Surf Curse are on to another part…

Wolpertinger: How We Are Alike

How to write about the sprawling, sometimes melancholy, collection of songs frm Wolpertinger entitled How We Are Alike, is a subject that has evaded me since I started listening to it.

My history of listening to this band goes back a while, when in the summer of 2011, the band’s album Lady Midday accompanied me on a considerable number of road trips. Wolpertinger is, if nothing else, music to travel to, especially in those cases where the lyrics are describing thoughts and feelings that might be occurring in the listener’s mind. How this band can put out music that so accurately mirrors my mood confounds me.

You might be guessing that at least for this reviewer, the second full-length album does it yet again, and to a certain extent, you’d be right. But in those cases where the music doesn’t describe my actual thoughts and feelings, it provides an excellent backdrop against which to put my thoughts and feelings in relief.

There’s nothing predictable about this album, and like a lot of good music, particularly prog rock (a genre to which the band would probably claim membership,) it takes a few listens to get the hang of it. But once you’re there with it, it’s there with you.

This album brings out a more anthemic direction from Wolpertinger, with tracks like “Friends and the Fear”, “Night”, and “Summer Isn’t Coming”. The first two tracks have a certain sort of pop appeal, and the third is quite an affair, hearkening back to musical theater with its chorale parts as well as its numerous movements and layered melodies.

The album brings out another sense that comes through in past Wolpertinger lyrics, that of a recognition, acknowledgement, and commentary on the baser bits of human existence. What in the track “Get Lost” is an offer to celebrate that baseness, we find reborn in “When We Get To The Interzone” as a callous reflection on it from the perspective of a world traveler. Where on “Stolyarny Lane”, there is a sense of yearning to get in and explore the night, on “Rockland” is the sense of the inevitable comedown. Nothing but dead neon here, indeed. God damnit.

Love comes, and it comes with pretty gay lyrics. “Alaska” conveys a sense of desire to run away, embracing a place personified as a new soul mate, or at least life partner, whereas “Psycho Boyfriend” tells a tale that is fairly self-explanatory.

9 tracks, and there are still another 6 tracks to cover, requiring more words. Those words will come, because I will hear those songs over and over again this fall – this time on walks through cities I have grown familiar and comfortable with. With How We Are Alike, Wolpertinger captures the essence of fall through tracks that explore a considerable range of human emotion and experience, and it is well produced, well played, and well sung music that spans genres at most times effortlessly. Give it a listen.

Secret Shoppers Fun Money

A nice little summer playlist is beginning to come together. Here’s the latest from Seattle-based Secret Shoppers.

Just in time! Your official Shoegaze/Soul album of the Summer!

Here’s an Alexander Korostinsky project just in time for Summer. It’s free. And mighty good.

Netherfriends: Reno, NV

From 2010 – 2011, Shawn Rosenblatt, aka Netherfriends, took on a challenge: Play a show and write a song in each of the 50 states. This is the song that he wrote in Reno:

Earthscraper: Porcupine (Echo & The Bunnymen Cover) & Also: What is Earthscraper!

Music project Earthscraper, by veteran Reno DIY-er Fil Corbitt, has a nice concept behind it.

I started a project called Earthscraper in December with the intention of releasing 3 music videos, playing 3 shows, and writing and recording an album – all before breaking up in exactly 6 months.

And of course, the three videos.

Earthscraper Film, Part 3: De Tierra Levanta from Earthscraper on Vimeo.

Earthscraper Film, Part 2: Drylands from Earthscraper on Vimeo.

Earthscraper Film, Part 1: A West Unwon from Earthscraper on Vimeo.

It’s time for the breakup. 6/22/2013 was the last day of Earthscraper.