Let's Ride Bikes
There are demos that are more cleanly produced, some more mature. But few show the promise of Adam Powell's Let's Ride Bikes, a charming collection of tracks the 21-year-old recorded in the room he grew up in. Armed with a keyboard, a guitar and a computer, Powell has put together an album that sounds like something Jon Brion would write about Lloyd Dobler, with terrific tracks like "Till We Fall" and "To My Birthday Party."
Gentle and shy, imaginative and playful, brimming with terrific melodies and hooks, Let's Ride Bikes is perfect to pedal to. It serves as the soundtrack to a Charlie Kaufman film that hasn't been written yet, but that I can't wait to see. Powell is demure about the album, and has no concrete plans to release it. Let's hope he invites the rest of us to ride with him.
Newcomers Alta Voz play a gorgeous and anfractuous brand of indie-rock that recalls the days of effect-less Death Cab and Bends-era Radiohead. Don't get me wrong, it's not all doom and gloom and gushy break-up tunes, but there's certainly real emotion behind these songs. "Twilight in the Colosseum" sounds as desperately sullen as anything Ben Gibbard's ever put out, and it's probably the best song I've heard in all the CD's I received this year.
Brothers Darrin and Jared Wardle have stunning call-and response vocals, and while the band doesn't have a drummer yet, bassist Eric Neri is often a rhythm section unto himself. Expect these guys to do well locally, with hopefully bigger things to come.
The buzz on these guys is so hot that, according to Heather Johnson over at M-Theory Music, Soundscan recently called the store to find out who the hell they were and why they were selling so many copies (bassist Iowa Mike works in the store as well). They've only played a few live shows, and the CD itself is nothing more than a CD-R with a spray-painted case.
Once you hear them, it's easy to understand why this six-song EP is flying off the shelves. It's an explosive mess of riffs and screams that recalls early Butthole Surfers and Psalm 69-era Ministry. Songs like "Chop Chop" and "Burn it Down" live up to their names, while the dirges "Surgery" and "Remove My Eyes" feel like Sabbath, if Ozzy and Iommi had been high on mescaline and decided to go punk. Funny thing, if you put the CD on your iTunes, the genre comes up as children's music. It's official: Sirhan Sirhan, like Wu-Tang, is for the kids. Enjoy.
Plant Final Mix
Misled Citizen isn't trying to take the esoteric advances of Radiohead and combine them with East Cambodian traditionals to create something wholly unique. No, this is shout-along punk rock-simple, straight-forward stuff that's been done a hundred thousand times by a ton of bros singing in unison about stuff that pisses them off.
Still, Misled Citizen does it well.
It's one sing-along anthem after another. If you still have that "Worst President Ever" bumper sticker on your car, then this is the record for you. They should be opening for Rancid at Soma sometime soon. Don your best Commie/anarchist denim apparel and pump your fist to lyrics like, "No love/ Just a cold-hearted man/ Hitler-like figure with a gun in his hand."
Think Bad Religion-meets-The Living End-meets-go see this band right fucking now.
Old Man Hands
Under The Weight Of Night...
With a voice as soothing as early Neil Young and a songwriting approach that rivals Bright Eyes or Sufjan Stevens, singer Gabriel Feenberg can take seemingly simplistic lyrics like, "But you're safe here/ By the ocean/ With your burden/ Leave it buried in the sand," and make them sound profound. Working under the moniker Old Man Hands, Feenberg has made one of the most stunningly gorgeous local recordings you're ever likely to hear.
Over the course of 15 songs, Feenberg recounts tender stories of love, loss and the lonely walks in between. If you think Beck's Sea Change was his best album, then songs like "Just Dust Blowing East" and "Slip Away" have the same kind of outlook. Sometimes the melancholy can weigh you down, but there's no denying that sadness is also the record's greatest strength. This is the best of the bunch, and what this music writer loves most about this issue.