I started this blog a year and change ago with the idea that I would talk about the world of music, and some Iowa stuff. I kind of segued that into Iowa stuff, mainly because very few people gave a damn what I thought about things outside of Iowa. It has since segued further into a music themed blog where I vent my own neuroses. I kind of like what I have written here lately, but I have seemingly left behind a lot of what I set out to do with this blog originally. I guess this is a long winded way of saying I have been a little up my own ass for this last year and less up Iowa music’s ass.
I have been trying to keep up with my Des Moines Is Not Boring stuff, but I try not to cover the same band twice with that column. Since I have fallen behind on some stuff I wanted to review, and it would break a rule that I have done fairly well of keeping (Parlours and Maxilla are the only two featured bands I have done twice and Maxilla was as BumRap, so I think that counts as two different bands. So, just Parlours). Here, in one big blast, I will attempt to clean up some stuff I have missed. Plus, I have been slightly under the weather today, so this seems like a perfect lay on the couch activity.
Annalibera has been a bit of a startling revelation on the Iowa scene in 2013. Beautiful voices, heavenly instrumentals and a ghostly vibe, Annalibera has gotten a lot of push from a lot of people for an important reason: they’re very good.
On their three song EP, Annalibera gives us a taste of what the band has to offer, and a glimpse of what could be in the future. From the live shows I have attended, they seem to have picked the three songs that stuck with me the most. “Clouds” is a beautiful duet with Ryan Stier of River Monks fame and lead singer Anna Gebhart that has hints of post-punk and new wave. I, however, think the next two tracks are going to have a serious fistfight for my favorite track of the year.
I am a crier. I cry. It happens. I am not ashamed of my visceral reactions to things. I was engrossed in “Vermillion” the first time I heard it live, and recorded, it loses nothing. I could actually feel myself choke up a bit from the beauty. Gebhart’s voice is perfect, the instrumentals are perfect. Its beautiful.
Somehow, despite “Vermillion” just wrecking me, “Battle World” might be a better song. It is slightly less subtle but the guitar work is stronger. It feels like “Battle World” is the single, and “Vermillion” is the song the deeper fans like. Like when you go to an, I dunno, Green Day concert and people pop for “Longview” but a small group of people lose their heads for “Going to Pasalacqua”. I don’t know if that makes any sense, but you’ll have to excuse me, I don’t feel well and I’ve been crying.
The first time I reviewed The Wheelers, I said that they were a lot more contemporary band than the 90′s bands they pointed towards as their influences. On their first full-length album, The Wheelers decided to prove me wrong by doing their best Nirvana impression. I should put best in bold…hang on… their BEST Nirvana impression. This album is truly an incredible throwback to those who listened to Nevermind and decided their favorite tracks were “Lounge Act” and “Territorial Pissings”. It is dirty and filthy and grimy and beautiful all at once. There is no wasted notes or vocal chords left unstrained. Just an incredible amount of passion and noise that I couldn’t help but listen to it three or four times in a row.
I have been a rather vocal supporter of Little Ruckus, and with good reason. He is chaos and control all at once. He is charming and optimistic and hard to hate, and uses his powers for good, I think. His first two albums are amongst my favorites. What I like best about those two is they seem like part one and part two of a story. Part one, We Love Evil, seems to introduce you to a guy you think is a little bit of a troublemaker, but who also wears his heart on his sleeve. The boy from the wrong side of the tracks you find yourself becoming enamored with. Part two, Tank Girl vs. Cape Girl, makes you realize you’re dealing with a someone special and someone who believes in himself and in you. So while his heart is on his sleeve, he does so because he really wants to be your friend.
American Confetti is part three. It is the celebration Little Ruckus throws you now that you’re friends. It is loud and quick and sample heavy (Dire Straits, X-Files, Britney Spears and so many more). It sneaks in the Star-Spangled Banner in the middle. It is a lot more instrumental than the prior two. Standalone, I didn’t like this album as much as the other two, but as part of an ever evolving story with Little Ruckus, it is an important and necessary step. If all he talks about is sweating and dancing, then when it comes time to sweat and dance it better be a chaotic mess of dance and sweat and this is that dance party. The usual Little Rucks stuff is in there, as is his ever present Sandwich Eating Crew, but this is certainly another step in the narrative. It makes me wonder what’s next and if maybe I am writing this story myself, or if that’s what is intended.
So, I know I haven’t really spoke of New Member Charles before, but I figured four seems like a good number for Volume 1 of what may be a multiple volume series (or may just be a one volume series; I’m tricky like that). New Member Charles is fun alt-pop-rock. But it is a different type of fun than say Poison Control Center. While PCC and NMC share some similar sounds, NMC seems to be a little more mischievous. Like, where PCC sings songs about love, NMC might sing songs about blowing up mailboxes (I don’t know if they have a song about blowing up mailboxes, but it seems like they could). For instance, “Boner Party” sounds a lot like PCC, however I don’t feel like they would have a running lyric of “Fuck! Shit!”, or would they call a song “Boner Party”. They might have a song like “Rubens Paul”, but even with that one NMC brings their own panache. Like a refrain of just shouting “Cat murder!” (at least I think that’s what they’re yelling. Man, I hope that’s what they’re yelling) So yeah, it’s pretty stupid and adolescent.
But you know what? Spooky Batches holds its own. It isn’t a gimmick, it’s just silly and fun and a good way to remind yourself that art doesn’t always have to be super-serious. Like, I don’t think a NMC song is ever going to make me cry, but I’m sure it will make me laugh. Hell, “Boner Party’s” line of “Fuck! Shit! Let’s get a pizza!” get’s me every time. And that’s great that an album can make you feel okay with juvenile thoughts while also bringing excellent instrumentals and fun.