Archive | August, 2012

The Mountain Goats Talk Growing Up in “Cry for Judas”

29 Aug

Transcendental Youth

John Darnielle and his band of Mountain Goats will release their 14th studio album, Transcendental Youth, on October 2. I know I mentioned this before on the Music Court, but I feel like I have a duty to mention it again. The album is sure to be awesome – like all of Darnielle releases – and it would surely be a shame if you missed out.

As a commenter on Darnielle’s tunes said recently, “nobody is better than Darnielle at writing such happy songs about utter hopelessness.” I agree and disagree. You see, this comment is true a lot of the time. Heck, if there is any hope in “No Children,” well, I haven’t found it yet. Still looking, though! But in Transcendental Youth, at least in the first song released from the album, there is a subtle hint of growth under the lyric. Darnielle paints a messy portrait of an adolescent teen struggling with growing up in the society he is surrounded by, a candid autobiographical depiction of Darnielle. And, to assist in my description of the song, here is a segment from The Mountain Goats’ website about the song – in Darnielle’s words.

“Cry for Judas,” it is about survival but that’s kind of an oversimplification, it’s also about building a vehicle from the defeated pieces of the thing you survived and piloting that vehicle through the cosmos, it’s kind of complicated but people who know what I’m talking about will kind of intuitively get the idea and the rest of you will I hope be able to get a sense of it through the song.

When people talk about surviving adolescence, they are not joking. There is innate passion, awkwardness, struggle, all inherent in the process of growing. And in the end you are you, and you survived as you. Time to pilot the vehicle. The lyric repeats the couplet (Long black night, morning frost, I’m still here, but all is lost). The important part is our protagonist is still there. It was a long black night, but despite the feeling that all is lost I can’t help but thinking that the character is just growing up. Look at the album title.

The Mountain Goats are also growing, somehow still maturing and falling into new sounds. The horns give the acoustic guitar a full sound, and then there is the bass guitar which provides an almost funky rhythm. The song itself is excellent. But, I mean, I wasn’t expecting any different.

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The Dream World of Fleeting Circus

27 Aug

*Note: This week marks the end of the final Bands of Summer segment. I hope you enjoyed the new bands introduced on the blog. Artist profiles of new bands will still be presented on the blog once a week. Stay tuned for exciting new posts in the future. Two more maintenance items. If you are a writer who likes music, I want you…to write for the Music Court. Interested? E-mail musiccourt@gmail.com with your name and information, and tell me what is your favorite band/artist and why? Also, are you a band interested in being featured on the Music Court? E-mail musiccourt@gmail.com with some information on the band, links to audio, and pictures.

Fleeting Circus

Fleeting Circus may have an ephemeral name, but the Brazilian rock band certainly has an opportunity to be around for a while. The four-piece act has not only already taken their sounds to a literal circus – the Unicirco Rock Show which pairs music and acrobats – but also they have released their first EP,  Dream World Of Magic, which is a collection of harder traditional rock and intriguing Muse-like tracks that combine a taste of early 70s progressive rock and modern alternative.

It is best to just jump right into the music. “Life Between Two Paper Sheets” is a track off of the new EP, and its tenebrous opening leads to a Pink Floyd-like vocal symphony that follows the distortion in the background. It’s a foreboding introduction, one that latches onto the listener and forces them to keep listening. Taynã Frota’s vocals are crafty and malleable. He glides through the song with efficiency, his pipes engrossing. And then the house comes down. At around 1:35, the rest of the band (Rod Seven – Guitar, Danny Seven – Drums, Felipe Vianna – Bass) appear in full force, like a cavalry entering the pernicious underworld where the song is staged. The consistency of the instruments is precise.

“Hurricane” is immediately different from the first track. It is also almost double the length. D. Seven and Vianna set the pace, with Vianna laying down a beauty of a bass riff. The rhythm stays fresh below Frota, and R. Seven introduces a small riff. The vocal harmony around a quarter of the way into the track adds to the piece, both voices absolutely capable. The song rises, leaving Frota to carry some powerful vocals at the end, after R. Seven absolutely kills a distorted solo that is almost celestial. A great representative of a promising first release from Fleeting Circus.

Check out the band’s Facebook, Twitter, and Website

Climbing Mt. Everest Cale

24 Aug

Everest Cale

Sometimes a band is just meant to be. Everest Cale is one of those bands. Composed of a group of college friends from South Carolina who journeyed north to the Big Apple, Everest Cale came together because of persistence and the joint desire to produce good music. The friends, Brett Treacy (vocals, guitar), Jeremy Kolmin (guitar) and Aaron Nystrup (bass), added drummer Nate Becker and keyboardist/vocalist  Ryan Roets, to round out the rock quintet. Since 2010, Everest Cale has played clean blues-inspired rock with 70’s inspired edginess and noticeable modern sentiments. On Sept. 4, they release their first EP Beast, and in anticipation of the release let’s take a listen to the band’s self-titled single.

The song begin’s with a softly-plucked guitar backing Treacy’s vocals. Treacy’s vocal has an intriguing quality to it. It is noticeably powerful, but it maintains a tenderness that is refreshing. It is recognizable, but original to Treacy. The progression of the song is smooth. One of the most attractive aspects of Everest Cale is that they play a refreshing blend of music that is skillful, organized, and precise. As the band demonstrates with the feedback and rock breakdown at the end of the song, they certainly know how to let loose and “rock out,” but they do that in a mature, unphased way. They are in charge of their music, and that is something that makes for an enjoyable listen.

Everest Cale plays their release show at Rockwood Music Hall, Stage 2 (New York) on Sept. 1. I am eager to listen to the rest of the EP.

You can keep track of the band by visiting their website and following them on Facebook and Twitter

Quintessentially Quintus

22 Aug

Quintus

In a way it is rather fitting that Quintus is named, well, Quintus. For all of you up on your Latin, Quintus means fifth. It took five years of recordings and the near death of the band before Quintus was able to piece together their first full-length compilation and follow-up to their 2006 EP The Shape We’re In. Was it worth the wait? Absolutely.

Back in 2006, Levon Helm produced Quintus’ EP The Shape We’re In and called the band one of his favorite new acts. The upbeat, country/folk album recorded in Levon Helm’s Woodstock barn, was never officially released because of a dispute with Downtown Records, the band’s label at the time, which was a shame because the album deserved to garner more ears than it did. Helm lauded the band’s maturity, and that attribute is evident in the tracks, all neatly developed, catchy, and exciting. The fire should have been warmed on Quintus, but it wasn’t.

Fast forward some years later, and I am writing to introduce the aptly titled Start All Over Again, which I hope is the beginning of a long career for the talented band led by producer, vocalist, and multi-instrumentalist Reuben Chess. The 11-track album does not have a dud, which is difficult enough to accomplish. Every song has its own flavor, some touching on the Country elements of their first release and others toying with a folk-inspired poppy Indie rock that combines horns and acoustic instrumentation with old-fashioned rock n’ roll beats. They are a throwback making modern music. There is an inherent contradiction in that statement, but I don’t hear it.

“Just the Same”  is a good example of what I just mentioned. The song’s sprightly rhythm combines with Chess record piano (what a coincidence – much in the vein of Lafayette Leake) and even a taste of Travelling Wilburys. Chess even adds in Buddy Holly’s trademark late 50s stutter. The horns are added delicately and fall behind a harmony straight out of the 90s. The song is such a wacky combination of elements, and it works exceptionally well. Credit to Mike Riddleberger – drums, percussion, vocals, David Dawda – bass, acoustic guitar, ukelele, banjo, piano, vocals, and Dan Kreiger – keys for their tremendous work in this excellent song that is a great expression of the band’s talent.

“To The Fillmore East” immediately follows “Just the Same” on the album. Chess begins the song with a moaning harmonica that leads into his powerful croon over a crafty acoustic guitar that follows the vocal to a tee. The song collides at close to the one minute mark and the full ensemble introduces itself. Quintus’ harmony is strong throughout the album, but this song features it specifically well. The song even takes on a pre-Magical Mystery Tour Beatles feel or, better yet, a California Beach Boys feel. The breakdown at 1:40 is wonderfully original. The song is a tremendous joy to listen to, even featuring an untampered electric solo and a cajun-saturated vocal echo, finishing with a fluffy harmonica and whistle.

Levon Helm was right. Quintus is a special band. It’s time for them to get the notoriety they surely deserve. So, go on, tell your friends.

The album can be purchased at the band’s Bandcamp and you can catch them on Facebook or Twitter

Forever Finding Oren Lyons

20 Aug

Oren Lyons

Oren Lyons is a Native American faithkeeper who is widely recognized for his advocacy for indegenous rights. Oren Lyons is also a band, whose nostalgic mix of cinematic Western symphonic rock is a musical “return to the land” and a true pleasure to listen to.

Oren Lyons formed this past January in Silver Lake, California, a Los Angeles neighborhood known for its modernist architecture and hipsters. It combines the work of composer and multi-instrumentalist Gueorgui Linev with guitarist/producer Peter Potyondy, singer Kristianne Bautista, violinist Dannon Rampton, drummer Randy Wagner, and bassist Ian Anderson.

The end result of this combination is an ambient sound that refreshingly transforms the genre of progressive rock into a calm, ethereal, dream-like sequence of delicate string arrangements, soft vocals, and excellent rhythm. “Forever Found,” the band’s debut single, can be streamed on their website. The effort reminds me of Rome, the 2011 album written by Danger Mouse and Italian composer Daniele Luppi, featuring Jack White and Norah Jones. That album featured musicians who recorded spaghetti western soundtracks in the mid-60s. “Forever Found” is cut from the same mold, a track that could have easily found itself on a Western sountrack, and this old-fashioned styling is far from outdated.

The song begins with strings that fall into percussion and an introductory bass line. The bass work in this song is notably good. With a name like Ian Anderson, you almost certainly have to be talented. Kristianne Bautista’s voice can be best described as haunting. It elegantly dances with the music, oscillating with the strings skillfully. The song continues to rise, taking a step up for the second verse, and this leads to exciting string work. The strings are certainly one of the main elements of the song, and they do carry it. I must say though, when the song descends at the 2:40 mark, Peter Potyondy’s guitar introduces a new element to the piece, providing it with an infectious folk-esque riff. The ending is wonderfully constructed. It also provides the listener with a most important conclusion – I want to hear more!

You can explore the band’s Facebook and Soundcloud

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