Oct. 21, 2014

This Week's SFR Picks

Newsletters

Choose your newsletter(s):
* indicates required
September 23, 2014 by Joey Peters  
September 23, 2014 by Justin Horwath  
October 7, 2014 by Joey Peters  
September 24, 2014 by Enrique Limón  
September 23, 2014 by Robert Basler  

SFR Events

Special Issues

 

 
Home / Articles / Music / Music Features /  Inside Track
Music Inside Track MAIN

Inside Track

Supersized edition

May 6, 2014, 12:00 am

3 Weeks Later: Glass Prison

Santa Fe metal trio, 3 Weeks Later, has already earned a rabid fan base in the City of Faith with their thunderous percussion and fast-paced, energetic guitar riffs. Stylistically, this suggests thrash metal, whereas the vocals are more reminiscent of hard rock. Glass Prison is a cohesive and sturdy debut, although some songs are heavier than others. Highlights include the eponymous opening track and the massively dynamic “Dementia.” This is an album that sounds best when enjoyed in its entirety, so the listener can notice the transitions between songs and contemplate why the artists chose to arrange them so. The EP has a very rhythmic ebb and flow, and maintains interest by shifting from limpid intros into torrential eruptions of melodic adrenaline. 3 Weeks Later’s sound almost emulates the early work of the Big Four and is a refreshing flashback to the golden age of thrash. (Cheryl Abhold)

Spotlight

Feathericci: The Woods

To nail down a specific DJ subgenre to assign Feathericci is difficult at best, but it’s refreshing to hear so much varied instrumentation, sampling and a bright, melodic take on the world of electronic music for his solo debut, The Woods

World beat percussion layered beneath groovy bass lines and an almost disco-like forefront dominate on opener “The Arroyo,” a dancey seven-minute tune that sets the tone for the rest of the album. From there, Feathericci delves fearlessly into just about every corner of music imaginable to tell what seems to be the non-lyrical musical story of his life in Santa Fe. Non-step head bobbers and dancefloor fillers permeate the record, alongside images of landscapes (spurred, perhaps, by song titles like “The Sun” or “The Rocks”). 

Mesa Recordings has been building a name as an easily accessible electronic label that somehow encapsulates the high desert through their artists, and Feathericci delivers on all fronts. Take “Bark Beetles,” a club jam that uses sampling, beats and odd percussion that seriously somehow makes one think of his weevil inspiration. Or “The Snow”—a darker, more contemplative piece that would make for a great soundtrack to sitting near the fire and feeling pumped you weren’t out in that mess. 

If Feathericci and his Mesa posse are the ambassadors for Santa Fe’s electronic scene, The Woods ought to make for a great introduction to the world at large.(ADV)

Alaska in Winter: Holiday

On paper, starting a love song with a digitally modified voice saying, “My speedboat goes much faster than yours, so let’s have a race,” sounds pretty bad. But “Speed Boat to Heaven”—the key track off Holiday, a record from Brandon Bethancourt’s solo electro-pop project Alaska in Winter—is a hooky little gem that somehow puts that goofy line aside to make the song really pop. Bethancourt’s forte is pensive, dreamy, ‘80s-shaded dance pop executed with a deft hand. Holiday is a delight rife with nice surprises that work, like what seems to be a banjo slipping into “Keep Your Boots Clean (And Everything You Step on is Dirt)” and not sounding totally out of place. (Reyan Ali)

American Jem: American Jem

It’s hard to say much about American Jem beyond, “These are great musicians. Too bad they’re part of an oversaturated genre.” Indeed, the self-titled EP from the Santa Fe Americana act is a decent listen and all; it’s just that there is no discernable wow factor to set them apart from any other Americana band operating today. Certainly singer Ellie Dendahl’s vocals are wonderful—specifically on Spanish-tinged number “La Llorona,” and yet there’s little to be excited about here, even on the emotive and flawlessly executed version of “Blue Bayou.” It’s hard to escape the feeling these musicians are simply going through the motions, almost like it’s just a job. There is some interesting guitar work found on “Ring Them Bells,” but a few noteworthy musical touches hardly make an album special, and we just don’t feel the passion. (Alex De Vore)

ANTHONY LEON & THE CHAIN: HELL TO PAY

This firebrand of a CD bears the unmistakable stamp of a man who walks the walk of the Old West; the promise and the heartbreak; the hope and the tragedy, with songs like “Devil’s at Reds” that show that Leon can spin a third-person tale of gunfights and woe in the great tradition of “Rocky Raccoon” and “El Paso.” A troubadour, spinning his whiskey-soaked anecdotes of ruin and redemption, he tells it like it is. In the song “Alcohol & Drugs,” he sings, “There are three things I can’t live without/ Whiskey and women and a shadow of a doubt.” In the song “Wildfire,” there’s a runaway train rhythm supplied by drummer Daniel Jaramillo, mixed with a soul-stirring, horse race, skip-a-heartbeat sentiment and narrative. This effort bears the unmistakable stamp of Frogville Studios’ Bill Palmer’s adept hand at mixing, mastering and recording, and Benito Rose Plaza tears up the guitar every chance he gets. Mr. Leon’s songs seem tailor-made for the cinema, so just go to the show, buy the record and if there isn’t a movie yet, there will be. (Andrew Primm)

As In We: As Above So Below

Post-rock is one of those rare genres that sounds less like an outlet for a bunch of people to have fun and more like work, what with all the stoicism, long-ass songs and lack of vocals. That idea definitely shines through with As In We, whose style is akin to Russian Circles and El Ten Eleven. On As Above So Below, the band commits itself to the fundamental post-rock blueprint of energetic, constantly shape-shifting compositions and leaves with something handsome, even if it doesn’t really add any twists to post-rock conventions. As Above is one of those albums that’s best absorbed as an album instead of a scattered collection of songs, so you can absorb all its weight in one go. (RA)

BRINGER (WITHAM-KIRKLAND): MUSIC FROM THE FILM, THE TWILIGHT ANGEL

Mysterious, well-recorded and mixed (at New Dream, Green Room and Potion Productions all in Santa Fe), this album is atmospheric, clean and professional. What can I say, it sounds like…the soundtrack to a movie. Whoever these guys are, I am glad they are doing pro work in this town, and I hope they will introduce me to their agent. The music contained here keeps reminding me of really well done world music from the late ’80 and ‘90s (think Jai Uttal), and the programming and samples they use incorporate lots of world percussion sounds. Loopy, modal, atmospheric and space-oriented, I would recommend this album to any detective who finds themselves following a dangerously seductive female around a swimming pool at a mansion in the Hollywood Hills at midnight. (AP)

Buddha Bass: Soulfood

Buddha Bass, aka Soulfood, aka Gordon Free, may have just found his niche. Seriously, y’all, this is pretty damn great music that is all over the map and yet centered. Free has composed excellent works for film as well, but forays into the rock spectrum weren’t nearly as successful. Think high desert electronica with elements of trance, house and a whisper of New Age, and you’re pretty close to the Buddha Bass sound. Stints at Burning Man have been reportedly positive as well, and it’s always great to see fine musicians settle in their wheelhouse. I might even start smoking weed again thanks to Soulfood. (ADV)

Country Blues Revue: Live Frogville Sessions

Country Blues Revue might get zero points for the creativity in the band name department—they do, in fact, mix country and blues, although I’m not sure if they’re a “revue”—but they make good on the tunes, delivering a mix of originals and covers (Robert Johnson, Howlin’ Wolf) with real poise and gusto. There`are a bunch of striking tracks here: most notably, the doe-eyed “Wedding Song,” the bouncy “Make Up Your Mind” and the smoky “Sitting On Top of the World.” This album is a recording of a live performance at Santa Fe’s Frogville Studios and having a crowd to react to things really imbues the album with extra energy. (RA)

DANIEL ISLE SKY: JUST ME

The songwriting style is very positive, like the song “Love (Give a Little),” giving encouragement that “love’s letting go of all your plans, a smile or shaking hands, give a little bit when you can.” This CD is a really good effort, showcasing what a singer/songwriter/guitarist can accomplish in a solo setting. Sky employs a fine use of guitar voicings and schemes, and the album showcases Bill Palmer’s skill in engineering and mixing. “Rise Above” has a nice George Harrison flair with a double-tracked vocal and chant-like melody. (AP)

Diego Diablo: Money Power Music

OK, this is scary, because so much of Money Power Music (a title that says it all) is so laughably bad that we feel an almost ethical obligation to say so, but lines like, “I could be a hit man, hit man/ Just throw me a dub you need to beat down a thug,” make us worry we’ll be killed. Oh, it’s not that Diablo doesn’t have a smooth flow or fully amazing music and production—he totally does—it’s more like the material came from some gangsta-rap book of songwriting tropes. Violence? Check. Releasing a hit track? Check. Shameless self-promotion? Check. Delightfully surprising guest musicians like Vernon de Aguero on guitar add some exciting dimension and tracks like “Dancin’ in My Gucci Shoes (feat. Profit)” come so close to making the album great, but there are probably about a million other hip-hop and rap records out there that’ll get the job done in a superior fashion. And why is it rappers always need to tell you where they’re from? (ADV)

Spotlight

Gregg Turner: Plays the Hits 

Just how good can a song about a pharmacist from Walgreens get? If it’s Gregg Turner—a founding member of ‘80s punk outfit Angry Samoans—tackling the subject on a solo record, the answer is profoundly good. 

The album opens with his strangely sad ode to a man behind the counter who helps refill his meds. Armed with a plain, deadpan voice—when you get down to brass tacks, Turner is more of a spoken-word artist with a guitar than a singer—he easily assumes the role of a Billy Bragg-like narrator you come to deeply trust and want to keep hearing more from. 

Sagas on Plays the Hits find Turner using Lou Reed as a muse and source of advice in a dream, losing out on a love interest to a guy at (the now defunct) Bobcat Bite and mourning over his status as a lonely single. There’s also a distortion-heavy tune about Satan’s bride and “Eve of Destruction,” an ominous war march that anticipates the end of the world. This album isn’t perfect—“I’ve Become Flaccid From Eating Bad Acid” appears to exist only to rhyme “flaccid” with “acid”—but with its prowess at telling short stories through folk songs, Plays the Hits becomes something genuinely special. (RA)

The Elected Officials: Beyond Corrupt

The debut release from Santa Fe’s only honest-to-goodness punk-rock act plays like a history lesson, both in political punk and the corrupt landscape of an over-corporate America, bought and paid for politicians and foreign policy. Beyond Corrupt hearkens back to the glory days of the genre when socially/politically conscious acts like Dead Kennedys and Reagan Youth roamed the earth and helped disenfranchised youth channel their frustrations. This is fast, dirty, angry, sloppy and well-informed punk rock—everything you want from the stuff. Standout tracks like, “Without a Face” or “Big Box” wouldn’t sound out of place in some dingy club from the early ‘80s, and fast-paced standouts like “News Show” offer a glimpse into just how fucked everything really and truly is. Only half of the band still calls Santa Fe home, but sporadic shows means that we’re all pretty lucky. Now get back to sewing that Exploited patch onto your crusty denim jacket, poseurs. (ADV)

Eryn Bent: Firefly

For her debut record, local singer-songwriter Eryn Bent infuses a healthy dose of introspection into her classically trained, country-rock style. Familiar themes like love, loss, regret and hurt come to the forefront through Bent’s soulful vocals and diary-like lyricism, and despite a few mainstream-radio-rock-esque musical missteps that err on the boring side, Bent mostly keeps her material evenly divided between head-bobbing rockers and the somewhat melancholy. Take the classic-rock tinged “I’m Leavin’” or “Friends and Foes,” a violin-heavy slow jam that explores a failed stab at love and the subsequent devastation we all know so well. And though Bent’s chops are undeniable and backup music from the likes of Caitlin Thomas, Justin Bransford and Jono Manson certainly don’t hurt, her solo work has proven more memorable, haunting, even. Certainly Firefly is an auspicious beginning for the young musician, but we’re betting her sophomore effort is going to be when she really hits her stride. (ADV)

FINN ALLEY: I CAN’T BELIEVE IT’S NOT MUSIC

The Lichenstein-styled cover art of a manicured woman in the throes of a dramatic fainting spell informs us of the classic breakup and unrequited love songs to be found on this four-song compilation. Finn Alley’s new school Beatles/’90s rock soundscape approach is oddly captivating, and the harmony/melody relationships are foxy. Sometimes the storytelling gets sacrificed for a big rhyme, but the musical compositions have enough uplifting twists to carry us through. “See” is a standout track with an epic sensibility. (AP)

Flamingo Pink!: It’s Our Job to Know We’re Dinosaurs

On It’s Our Job to Know We’re Dinosaurs, Santa Fe/Bay Area songstress Flamingo Pink!, aka Megan Burns, comes out swinging from behind a keyboard, and it seems the days of whisper-quiet vocals layered over pretty finger-picky guitar work—a style she is best known for—may just be behind her. Instead, this seven-song EP showcases a bedroom indie take on synth-heavy pop tunes that run the gamut from soft and cute to dark and dancey. Use Sleigh Bells and the Drive soundtrack as loose waypoints, and then add hi-fi elements from Radiohead’s Kid A for good measure. There is certainly no wanting for charm on Dinosaurs, be it in Burns’ gorgeous multi-track harmonies with herself or lyrical gems like on “Just a Smaller Version of a Regular Tooth,” when she tells what very well could be a lost friend or lover, “I put my arms down so I don’t push through your ghost/ Seeing clearly all the parts I like most.” The concept of loss pops up again on “Oh Death” as Burns laments, “Oh death, I just want to be friends.” There’s a feeling of maturity that is conveyed both through subject matter and the unmistakable stylistic departure from the previous works of Flamingo Pink!, but rather than burn bridges by straying too far from the things that won her fans in the first place, Burns has captured seven nearly flawless tunes that all at once sound new and exciting but hold onto her core songwriting sensibilities. (ADV)

Glen Neff: Bamako

Musician Glen Neff specifically asked that I not review his music, which prompted an “Oh yeah!?” response in me…and, I admit, the desire to hate Bamako. But after several listens and the most intense attention I’ve ever paid anything in my life, I have to say that I’m blown away. At its core, Bamako can be unfairly classified as world music, but it is so much more. This is emotional music that touches upon mankind’s almost primal rhythmic need or the soundtrack to potential enlightenment. Breathe deep, dear listener, and relax. Neff brings the intensity to his soundscapes with a noticeably international flair; it’s almost as if no corner of the globe escaped his musical mind’s’ eye. And though some songs lack cohesiveness, stellar tracks like “Veenapersia” get your head bobbing and keep it that way. Closer “Time Machine Dreams” may just be one of the most beautiful ambient experiences around and sort of speaks to the album as a whole—experiments in New Age music needn’t be hokey or lame and sometimes beauty is just plain beauty. (ADV)

The Grannia Griffith Story: Uncertain Tea EP

While Grannia Griffith’s most recent EP isn’t exactly what we’d call a professional recording, this indie-folk gem is one of the best locally recorded releases we’ve heard in…ever. What Griffith lacks in a massive studio price tag or slick production, she more than makes up for with an organic and gorgeous songwriting style. Griffith, a well-known local performer and busker, proves her DIY ethos is more than worthy of attention, and the four songs that make up the EP (recorded in a cabin on a rainy day) couldn’t be any more charming if Griffith tried. Minimal instrumentation married with flawless vocal ability and endearing lyricism means that the Uncertain Tea EP is one of those rare must-have records you’ll just have to play over and over again. (ADV)

Hating Nate: Stop Counting the Seconds

It isn’t that Santa Fe’s Hating Nate (formerly HN-88) isn’t a perfectly likable, talented band; it’s more that they’re about 15 years too late to the pop-punk party—to be fair, the genre never went anywhere—but whereas Bay Area bands like Jabber carry the tradition set down by bands like Descendents or The Ramones with originality and no small amount of passion, Hating Nate’s obvious nods to Johnny-come-lately punk-ish acts like The Ataris or Blink 182 (you could practically sing the verse to Blink 182’s “Adam’s Song” during the outro of “An Epilogue of Apologies”) means that just about any punk-rock aficionado older than 25 will find little to love with Stop Counting the Seconds beyond a fleeting nostalgia and/or passing interest. Songs like “When the Fire in Your Eyes Consumes You” show that the band is trying to leave high school halls behind and grow up a bit, but even that can’t save a run-of-the-mill set of songs from so-so lyrics and the pitfalls of a worn style. The longtime local act has absolutely tightened their live set as of late, and Seconds can boast some seriously solid production…this would make a greatly accessible introduction to the world of punk for newcomers and youngsters alike, but old hands will probably need something more. (ADV)

Jaka: Glow

Summer isn’t quite here yet, but if you already have the season on your mind and want to punch up your playlist appropriately, you should take note of Jaka’s ecstatic sounds on Glow. This band matches catchy, buoyant, impeccably delivered tropical pop/Afropop with cryptic lyrics (“Psychedelic paint job on the back of your eyes” is a particularly nice line) and a knack for subtly weaving unexpected bits of seriousness into their party-friendly compositions. Jaka really make no missteps of note. (RA)

Jamie Russell: Santa Fe Sessions

Backed by a handful of musicians, Jamie Russell generates earnest, touchy-feely, generally slow-dance-friendly folk rock on Santa Fe Sessions. It was designed to be savored by sensitive souls just aching for someone to adore. Both lyrically and musically, Sessions gives you little engaging or evocative material to chew on, but there are a couple of songs so sharp—most importantly, “The Flame”—that when they fire up, Russell seriously starts to find his footing as a man in charge. Also working in this album’s favor are the occasional flourishes that punch up these slow tracks, like the flamenco guitar dotting “Dance With Me” and guest vocalist Felecia Ford dropping in for a number inspired by “Swing Low, Sweet Chariot.” (RA)

Jay Boy Adams & Zenobia: How Long, How Long

If any musicians here epitomize the idea of a “bar band,” for better or worse, it’s the combination of guitarist/vocalist Jay Boy Adams and keyboardist/vocalist Zenobia (alongside bassist Trixie Merkin and drummer Josh English). How Long How Long is twangy blues/country rock that hits on the bar band basics—some catchy guitar licks, a couple of covers, a pace that’s not too fast and too slow, easy-to-grasp lyrics—without adding anything new to the mix. It’s good-natured stuff, but nothing that pops out on record. That said, there’s a great take on “John the Revelator” late into the disc that is worth checking out. (RA)

Spotlight

JONO MANSON:
ANGELS ON THE OTHER SIDE

When Jono came to Santa Fe in 1991 or so, it didn’t take long before Pete Williams and I both went and bought Telecasters. Jono is a big influence and inspiration for performers and songwriters all over the world. 

Formerly from NYC, he’s a guy with an international career (the album was partially recorded in New Zealand and Italy) who brings it on home to play and record in little ol’ Santa Fe. In fact, he owns and runs Kitchen Sink Studios, where this album and many others have been recorded. Back in the day, we’d all go hear Jono play wrenching songs of poetic heartbreak and romantic injustice and cry tears in our beers, but now the songs are about “enough love in this heart of mine to just enjoy the ride.” 

A sweet standout for me is “Silver Lining,” featuring longtime collaborator John Popper and co-written with Caline Welles: “Silver lines the quiet/ Silver lines the crown/ Silver lines the stillness of our sleeping town.” It’s such a pleasure to see other co-writers’ names too, like Crystal Bowersox, Joe Flood, Chris Barron and Bruce Donnola, and from them we get everything from rockers like “There’s a Whole World on Fire” that will stir the soul to ballads like “Angelica” that will draw a tear of joy. 

A master of his craft and a Santa Fe treasure, I know I will be listening to this—Jono calls them “records”—again and again. (AP)

Kito Peters: Witness

Witness proves a rather interesting dichotomy, for in every laid-back song lies the lingering spirit of the emotionally charged inner workings of Kito Peters. For every moment he approaches tedious beach-bum rock, he pulls out a Tom Petty-esque moment of lyrical melody or a pseudo-shreddy guitar flourish. Somebody must have hurt this guy at some point, as he points out on “Scapegoat” when he laments, “You’re the one I’ll pin it on/ You’re the one I’ll blame.” Subtle satirical jabs at the American experience on “Anthropology” coupled with the excellent trombone work of César Bauvallet nearly brings Witness into funky territory, and the ever-steady production of David Cragin means there’s always some little thing you may have missed, which, in turn, prompts multiple listens. Peters isn’t the greatest singer of all time, but he’s capable enough and really means it; and his backup band comprised of local titans like Kevin Zoernig, Michael Chavez and more makes for an overall focused experience. (ADV)

Man Hurls Hedgehog: Man Hurls Hedgehog

Boy, this is a strange one. At first blush, Man Hurls Hedgehog specializes in post-hardcore/hard rock that seems like it will come to focus on being loud, gritty and cranky in that good, punky way. Yeah, the vocals get grating quickly, and the production here needs some work, but all that works with the aesthetic, right? Then, the mood swings kick in. MHH go from a biting, Black Flag-style track about why local TV news is so depressing to a dopey tune about growing too old for getting wasted and another about having a son in Mexico named Max. Once those are played for laughs, they’re followed by a sincere song about regret, an exceptionally weird story about assaulting a home invader and going to trial for it, and a kickass instrumental called “Parker Posey.” On the whole, Man Hurls Hedgehog is tantamount to “WTF” printed in 200-point font, which makes it compelling, unpredictable and a head-scratching mess all at once. (RA)

MARK LANDAU: HOW YOU WERE

One might argue with the stark, single-instrument and vocal delivery of this album—it has the vibe of a songwriter’s demo reel—but other than that, it stands its ground. I have a lot of respect for someone who plays in tempo, sings in tune and delivers tight compositions with melody and meaning. These songs are from a different era (at least half of them say they were recorded in 1981), but they reveal something that can be absent in contemporary hoochie-mama, boy-band pop music—namely melody, chords and lyrics. Why is that so refreshing? Is it living in a world of pitch correction and lip-syncing, where the push of a button makes a kid a songwriter and people pay the DJ but not the band? Hmm. Maybe. Stick with me here: Back in the days when men were sensitive men and vocals were doubled, Simon & Garfunkel met Billy Joel and got a Ben Folds twinkle in their eye while Air Supply opened for Journey at a concert in the park in the City by the Bay. (AP)

Martha Reich: In To Trees

In To Trees, a folk record from Martha Reich, is one of those albums that, on paper, should totally work. She has a breathy, carefully cultivated singing style and knows her way around an acoustic guitar, plus the production is on point. But by and large, In To Trees is too anemic and gloomy for its own good. As she discusses romantic commitments, self-truth, the majesty of an ocean, indecision and God, Reich writes a record with nothing much to really wrap your hands around or demand your attention, even though it wants you to feel intimate with it. Little here stands out, and In To Trees is too placid and dour for its own good. (RA)

Paul Kelly: Old New Mexico

Never underestimate the power of a charismatic narrator. Paul Kelly’s Old New Mexico is pared-down, upbeat Americana/blues driven by a golden-voiced narrator who pens tributes to the wild side of Oklahoma City (who knew?); a gal from Sweetwater, Texas; the beauty of nature; and America as a whole. (His treatment of that last subject in “America, a Miracle” is particularly corny.) He also somehow writes a marvelously evocative song about droughts. Personality-wise, Kelly exudes the vibe of a late-night talk show host as much as a musician, with his willingness to trade off between cracking wise and paying serious attention to his songcraft. (RA)

Paw Coal and The Clinkers: Old-Timey Music of the Future

According to the liner notes of Old Timey Music, “When some of these songs were first heard, they were modern.” This sentiment permeates the record from the moment we hear Paw Coal’s take on Stephen Foster’s “Camptown Races” and lasts until the closer (an Americana-y version of Bob Marley’s “One Love”) fades out. Oh, there are clever and fun original tunes found throughout the album too, and Paw Coal sure as hell knows how to surround himself with local banjo, fiddle and mandolin players of the highest order, but this isn’t anything we haven’t heard a million times before. There’s a fine line between maintaining musical heritage and re-treading all-too-familiar territory, and despite the top-notch musicianship, Old-Timey Music of the Future probably won’t find itself in anyone’s regular rotation. It’s just as well, as the live show overshadows the admittedly well-recorded material. Will you like this? Probably. Do you need it? Naw. (ADV)

Pray For Brain: None of the Above

If jazz-funk can be described as a new obsession of sorts around here, then jazz trio Pray For Brain (and contemporaries like müShi Trio) are leading the charge. For their debut record, appropriately titled None of the Above, Christine Nelson, Jefferson Voorhees and Mustafa Stefan Dill scoff at the concepts of time signatures and common structure for 11 genre-defying tracks that both entice and challenge the listener. This album somehow delivers an experience that is all at once disjointed and experimental, yet accessible and catchy. Certainly moments exist that tread perilously close to jam-band weirdness or freeform noodle-a-thons, but there is a level of restraint that serves the songs well and drives them forward into heretofore locally unknown areas of jazzy brilliance. If nothing else, None of the Above is an album for music technique aficionados and proves that complicated music is sometimes so cool, you’ve just gotta get behind it. (ADV)

RAILYARD REUNION: DERAILED

As soon as I popped in the CD, I could hear the fine sounds of Jono Manson’s Kitchen Sink Studios supporting the pure, clear and unadorned renditions of some pluckin’ and strummin’ songs in the traditional bluegrass/Americana/folk styles. Most of the songs are written and sung by banjo player Tim Nolen, and they stand shoulder to shoulder alongside the dusting of traditionals and covers that are also included. Gemma DeRagon does a compelling turn with the lead vocal in “I’m Just Here to Get My Baby Out of Jail,” a jaunty song for every complicated character who’s ever needed someone to come up with bail money and a reason for living after a hard night. It’s a fun-loving, good-time album, and at 15 tracks, you will have no shortage of songs for dancing on your patio this summer. If bluegrass is your cup of tea, then do yourself a favor and make Railyard Reunion your tea bag. (AP)

Robert Sequoia: Compassion

If you are, for whatever reason, on the hunt for music to fall asleep to, Compassion is right in your wheelhouse. That’s a compliment to Robert Sequoia, not an insult. Aided by Deborah Barbe on cello, the guitarist delivers nine dulcet acoustic instrumentals built for moments of relaxing and meditation, as evidenced by track names like “The Healing Forest” and “Essence of Life.” Nothing much happens or changes on Compassion—Sequoia’s guitar strolls along an easy line—but really, that’s the point. His simple, unobtrusive sounds do fine work at massaging an overstimulated brain. (RA)

The Room Outside: The Room Outside

On one hand, The Room Outside’s self-titled debut is so unbelievably good it’s hard to believe it came out of Santa Fe, or even this decade. With elements of garage rock, ’60s-esque pop (think The Mamas & the Papas) and absolutely beautiful vocals from Karrie Hopper, The Room Outside proves to be a treasure trove of throwback gems and infectious melodies. On the other hand, idealistic lyrical groaners like, “Differences will not divide/ Light will fill the street from a brand new sun,” or “Let’s go fly/ It’s easy to be free,” seem almost silly or a little naïve. That said, these songs could have easily come out of Vietnam-era America if it weren’t for nifty modern touches that recall indie darlings like onelinedrawing or Mirah. The solid and unobtrusive rhythm, courtesy of drummer and former SFR contributor Loren Bienvenu and bassist/Hopper’s sister Roxane, round out the package nicely, and the overall soft and gorgeous sounds provide a welcome edition to the Santa Fe scene. Really, the important question we all need to ask is when the hell are these guys playing a show? (ADV)

SKY: THE UNIVERSE IS YOUNG

I’m a bit mystified at first by the interruption of the huge space-like chords by dissonant guitar notes, but then the sitar makes its entrance and the world starts to settle back into place. However, that place is now a moonlit grove of trees with stars reflected in the pond next to the elven gazebo…what, so? I’m an ‘80s kid, and I have some very pleasant associations with New Age music: stained glass windows, the smell of incense, the promise of a grand and multi-hued—mostly magenta, orchid and midnight blue—horizon. This music is thoughtful and inspiring, atmospheric, and in the grand tradition of synthesizer patches, named “ethereal.” May the New Age smile on us all. Breathe. I’m into it. (AP)

The Strange: The Strange

The Strange, a self-titled album released by one of Santa Fe’s most popular rock groups, is characterized by rhythmic blues-inspired riffs, catchy melodies and brooding lyrics. Although at first they seem to follow a more traditional 4/4 structure and blues-inspired chord progressions, their flexibility as songwriters and performers is exceptional. Their unique brand of rock ‘n’ roll is heavily influenced by the pensive lyricism of country, the emotional intensity of the blues and even the energetic twang of surf. Songs run the emotional spectrum from sad and sweet to defiant and bombastic, and as a whole, the album is cohesive with a smooth flow between tracks. True standouts from the EP include the borderline psychedelic opening number, “Take Me to the Moon” and the maudlin ballad “Tie Keys to the Kite.” Overall, their musical style is upbeat yet nuanced with melancholy undertones, appealing to a wide range of audiences. (CA)

SUZANNE TENG: MYSTIC JOURNEY

Suzanne Teng plays alto, C and bass flutes, the Native American flute, the ocarina and really pretty much every other kind of flute in the world, creating lush yet sparse musical landscapes using exotic percussion and world flavors. (Perfect for yoga! Hint, hint.) Expertly recorded, mixed and performed, this CD proclaims that it was completely produced in Southern California. The note included with it says, “We live here in Santa Fe but mostly perform elsewhere.” Which brings up the reality that there are a lot of national- and world-class musicians who, you know, live in Santa Fe. (AP)

The Swank Brothers: More Funkier!! More Better!!

According to the band itself, the recording of More Funkier!! More Better!! was completed during a time of utter exhaustion with producer David Cragin at the helm. (That dude’s everywhere.) This shows in the disjointed and oh-so-silly nature of the album’s songs. Perhaps The Swank Brothers consider themselves funny, and it should be noted that they are probably a blast live, but in their goofy take on guitar noodling, boring percussion and songs that sound as if they were made up on the spot by a bunch of stoners, they do themselves a disservice. We can’t imagine any reason for anyone to buy this album short of being friends with these dudes, and given how they’re all actually very talented musicians, that’s sad. Certainly there’s a place for joke or novelty music, but when a bunch of guys just dick around in the studio and release an album of loosely affiliated sounds, it’s hard to find a way to defend it. Is it blues? Is it rock? Is it funk? It’s all of these and somehow, none. (ADV)

THIEVES & GYPSYS: BREAK

This CD comes with inventive DIY packaging that is a hexagonally folded thick brown paper (think: fancy Taco Bell Crunchwrap) held together with a waxen seal and a piece of string and a cool drawing of what I am going to say is a baby raven on what I am going to say is the front. The album features larger-than-life guitars with a retro/future vibe and distorted vocal stylings à la Black Keys. Thieves & Gypsys is solidly in the modern millennial era of rock, emphasizing spring reverb tone and the emotions of a heartbroken vampire with a driving post-punk neo-rockabilly rhythm section. Become friends with this band before they get tapped to do a national commercial for the newest tech product and land a spot at Coachella. (AP)

Torn Between Worlds: Torn Between Worlds

Old-school grindcore band Torn Between Worlds has been a favorite amongst Santa Fe metalheads for over a decade. After years without a record release, they put out their highly anticipated self-titled debut EP in December of 2013. Torn Between Worlds exemplifies the band’s signature blend of grind and hardcore punk as the tension between genres often manifests as dramatic shifts in tempo. This can alter a lethargic, heavy track into something more fast-paced and sporadic or vice versa. Thunderous percussion provides an excellent backdrop to aggressive riffs and vicious, snarling vocals, and each track opens with a sound clip/sample, usually pertaining to macabre subjects that complement the lyrics. This band has mastered the art of brutality, and yet the music has a certain finesse that many contemporary grindcore groups lack, which results in a superb album that lives up to Torn Between Worlds’ long-standing legacy. (CA)

Venus Bogardus: Radium Girls

Although Radium Girls is, in sum, a five-track EP by the alt-rock/punk rock/garage rock duo, it really feels more like two separate projects blended together. Radium Girls’ first half is OK rock music—nothing too special. Then, at the third track, things really pick up. The tinny post-punky “Kaspar Is Dead” is both menacing and alluring, and the hooky “Newsprint” sinks its teeth in deeper. EP closer “Guerilla” finds the middle ground between both halves. Radium Girls isn’t perfect, but it evidences lots of great moments at play in Venus Bogardus’ work—not the least of which are their lyrics, which are surreal little portraits of the world mutating and disintegrating. (RA)

 

comments powered by Disqus
 
Close
Close
Close