Kansas City’s American Catastrophe has hit on something quite nice with their debut album Excerpts From the Broken Bone Choir. Over the course of 33 minutes, six tracks of slow-burning, dark western epics filter out from the cave of depressed Americana.
American CatastropheExcerpts From the Broken Bone Choir
Kansas City’s American Catastrophe has hit on something quite nice with their debut album Excerpts From the Broken Bone Choir. Over the course of 33 minutes, six tracks of slow-burning, dark western epics filter out from the cave of depressed Americana. The instrumentation is minimal and stark, while brooding baritone singing complements guitars, harmonica and simple percussion. The band hints at sweeping post-rock as well, but keeps that sound in line with their sonic palette of quiet western-isms. The aforementioned vocals occasionally become slightly overwrought–the band would do well to keep the gritty tone on the vocal parts–but overall this is a solid and enjoyable listen from a band that should do great things in the future.
Queens of the Stone AgeEra Vulgaris
Another year, another Queens of the Stone Age album. And as is typical, Josh Homme and crew have released another mixed bag of delight and annoyance in Era Vulgaris. The thing about the Queens is that they are capable of writing really awesome rock songs. But they are led by a self-indulgent musician who seems to have let critical praise go to his head. Dude, you can do wrong. Not everything you create is amazing, and you need to practice a little self-editing. Stop shitting out albums, and start writing complete works. For everyone else: there are a few good songs on this album, but unless you like weird robot-rock jams a lot you would be better off listening to one of the first three Queens albums. Those records will stand the test of time; Era Vulgaris will not.
Glorior BelliManifesting the Raging Beast
Something I don’t understand about black metal: the corpse-paint. What’s up with this? Black metal musicians take their music very seriously, yet they wear make-up. Seems like a contradiction. I suppose it goes with the theatricality that arrives in their lyrics (about darkness and grimness, etc.) but it still seems strange. The music here, by Frenchies Glorior Belli, is actually really diverse and is by no means by-the-book black metal. Yes, there are many moments of raging, buzzing guitars, but they are tempered by doomier (read: slower) moments of melody. You don’t have to look that hard to see the influence of post-metal bands like Isis all over Manifesting the Raging Beast. The vocals are appropriately dense and screaming, while instrumentation varies and propels the music forward. This is an impressive album from an artist pushing the limits of their genre. Just please dump the corpse-paint already.
Art in Manila Set the Woods on Fire
What’s sometimes amazing and also confounding is the staggering number of musical talents that seem to stem from Omaha, Nebraska. From Little Brazil to Bright Eyes, from Landing on the Moon to Tilly and the Wall, great indie music just emanates from that city like warmth from a fireplace and the debut album from Art in Manila is no exception. Art in Manila is the new(ish) six-member band started by Orenda Fink, one half of the now-defunct Azure Ray. The band’s name is a tip-of-the-hat to paranoid radio host Art Bell’s exodus to the Philippines. This album crosses genres with ease yet retains cohesiveness thanks to Fink’s layers of pretty vocals and the clean but not overly-polished production, and Fink’s lilting vocal melodies are carried spryly by keyboards, acoustic and electric guitars, bass and drums. Album highlights include the moody, snare-drum driven “Spirit, Run” and the opening track “Time Gets Us All” which has a Feist-ian clarity to it.
Here’s a female singer who plays guitar and writes gently rocking songs a la Cat Power. The thing about gently rocking songs is that, sometimes, unless you’re at the beach or having a picnic, these songs can put you right to sleep. She seems to be singing with a lot of sincerity, but the music is fairly devoid of dynamics and the melodies aren’t very inspired or inspiring. The album’s 10 songs all kind of sound the same: poorly mic’ed drums, slow electric guitars strumming, Simone singing and then Simone wailing. The songs aren’t terrible; there’s just not much to grab on to. Until the simply grating “Nightswimming,” in which Simone’s vocals seem akin to neighborhood cats in heat. A sure sign of an irritating song is when a normally unflappable co-worker asks, “Who is this?” in the manner with which he normally asks “Who farted?” Yep, this stinks.