Certainly, we all assumed this week was going to pass us by barely noticed, with only trivialities rendered by pop culture. Unfortunately, things didn’t happen that way. Like many, I bury myself in my work to avoid hearing about the miserable news of events this week, but it still lingers around.
But in other news, Austin, TX duo Hovvdy just released the EP, Billboard For My Feelings (Grand Jury Music). It’s obvious, the band can never do wrong with its gorgeous melodies along with harmonies that will always haunt your dreams. It begins with manipulated notes that you won’t be able to get enough of on “Ruby.” They eventually dissipate amongst acoustic guitar strumming and its infectious melodies before coming right back in the distance. How is it possible for a band to create something so seamless and inviting all at once? Hovvdy does it time and time again. Now if I’m honest, it’s the delightful “Everything” that’s much more captivating and alluring. Charlie Martin & Will Taylor have the ability to create an ambiance around the track that draws on the power of acoustic guitars and harmonies, embellishing the song with loads of strings, and arranging it in one fantastical hodgepodge of sound. No one seems to do it better than Hovvdy and just within 4 songs, this is testament to the band’s prowess. I’ve only mentioned two tracks here, you have to go and discover the rest for yourself. If you disagree, well, you’d be wrong.
Indie Rock supergroup or, um, Indie Rock supergroup? Let’s just skip the pleasantries and get right down to it shall we? When a group appears and includes Janet Weiss (Quasi, Sleater-Kinney), Drew Grow (Modern Kin), Kathy Foster (Thermals, Hurry Up), and Anita Lee Elliott (Viva Voce, Blue Giant), we just may have something special with Slang. Off the heels of a couple of singles the group has released it’s debut long-player, Cockroach in a Ghost Town (Killl Rock Stars) and yes, the band may need your full attention. Opening with the scorching “Wilder,” the band pieces together captivating melodies, distant backing harmonies, with pummeling prowess. It’s contagious and you’ll find yourself humming and singing along with it the moment it begins. “King Gunn” moves in a slightly different direction and its much more direct and powerful while “In Hot Water” builds quickly taking a more glamourous approach as the band revels in its own spacious oddity. The band carefully blends pop, punk & glam aesthetics throughout the album, allowing 70s hard rock edges to round out its sound. Listening to “Chipped Tooth,” there’s nothing else that sounds like Slang as it walks to the beat of its own drum. It’s grandiose, a reimagined world of rock and by the time they get to the title track, the kid gloves come off. Cockroach in a Ghost Town is on some next level shit.
Musically, an artist can sometimes manage to move in circles around genres, and at others, they’re firmly rooted in one spot. In either regard, it isn’t a tear in the fabric of clothing they wear, it’s what they’re comfortable in. King Ropes, led by Dave Hollier, has just released the self-produced, Super Natural (Big and Just Little), the band’s fifth studio album which gives a heady nod to, well, no one. There are moments when scribes are always quick to make comparisons but King Ropes, yeah, they don’t make things that easy. Hailing out of Bozeman, MT the band’s self-professed deserty Americana clearly shares familiarity within genres but is quite unique in song delivery & structure.
There’s a charm to the slacker-like “Greedy,” from Hollier’s poignant vocal phrasing to the band capitalizing on the song’s rhythmic thrust. The rhythm section is front and center with guitars embellishing the track itself, as notes reverberate through it, maximizing on the potential here. Hollier’s storytelling here comes across like he hasn’t a care in the world. Yeah, that’s probably it right there. Attempting to gauge which direction King Ropes is expected to move in becomes difficult because there’s no rhyme or reason in that respect. Don’t get me wrong though, the band’s delightful movements, whichever direction it chooses to go into is pretty delightful. The slower moving “Breathing” has an infectious rhythm, drifting off around Hollier’s vocals. Guitars are added for good measure, like splashing color on a black & white canvas.
It’s the repetition throughout “Pockets” where the band seems to fly its freak flag of weirdness. A chunky bassline leads the way, with some odd guitar renderings, and while the song at moments goes off the rails letting listeners believe in its sloppiness, it’s far from being just that. There is a method to the madness, a strange carnivalesque musicality that’s well, maddening but in an appealing manner. While the band’s insanity is fully realized here, the weirdness & pop sensibilities are offered up on “My Brother’s A Bear Now,” where Hollier shares a storybook fable about his brother, um being a bear now. The cello added into the fray makes the track irresistible alongside vocal harmonies from beginning to end. This is a kid’s bedtime story that adults could listen to, tucked in all snug as a bug, as the band offers its colorful delivery.
The band is full of surprises, much like “Heart Shaped Garden,” a bounce-filled pop endeavor with cooing harmonies. But it’s “Blind Eye” that’s pretty fascinating, beginning with his blind eye tricks and familial pain. It’s catchy AF, beating to the sound of its own drum. There’s so much to dive into within the 11 tracks that you’ll find difficulty picking out just one thing. Even the psychedelia of “Sure” throws a monkey wrench into the fold and will leave you wondering if it’s a pop song or something much, much more.
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It comes and goes, a deep expanse of eras that are reinvigorated and revitalized. It happens often and one can’t help but think music is consistently regurgitated into something new from decade to decade. It shouldn’t take long for anyone to understand what Seattle’s Bread Pilot is doing with its ironically titled New To You (Double Double Whammy) as the 4-man group maneuvers through a healthy dose of classic 70s rock, albeit on the softer side of the spectrum. The group fills its songs throughout the album with thick harmonies that are unrelenting.
“I Won’t Want To” gives clear example of those harmonies, with soothing acoustic guitars embellished with electric, wrapped all around it. The band is crafty, I’ll give it that much, with subtlety in the song’s momentum. The track’s progression is natural and unhindered. Now while most songs take a much quieter approach, Bread Pilot takes “Skin Day” somewhere else altogether. Here, the band offers a song fully realized, strengthened by its hard edges and forceful vocals while harmonies abound in the background.
We can’t take anything away from Bread Pilot because they’re masterful in songwriting and delivery. The one problem though is songs tend to blend into one another and its difficult to distinguish one from the other. In other words, some songs tend to sound the same. That’s not a dig on the group, just an observation. “Crook” does some great things with just guitar and vocals alone, which isn’t always an easy thing to do. When the rhythm section comes in, the group takes things up another level. Here again we have those dynamic vocals that seemingly tear through the fabric of reality and forces listeners to take notice.
While I’m not completely sold on New To You, I’m not shutting the door on them either. Bread Pilot has a strong command over its songwriting and don’t want to see it stuck in the trappings of an era. The band has the talent and I’d like them to expound on it more.