Orthodox – “Matse Avatar”
This one has definitely held up for me. Being a bit new to the band but loving these two songs so much, I’ve gone and checked out some of their previous material and they do a really intriguing mix of doom and jazz with some medieval folk overtones, and on some of their stuff they go all-out acoustic with string bass and trumpet. Their name has a delightful irony to it as they seem to piss off a lot of purists. How could I possibly not love a band like that?
Samuel Locke-Ward & The Boo-Hoos/Mumfords split 7″
The relatively straightforward loud rock tunes of the Boo-Hoos side has needed a little time to grow on me, but I’m starting to catch myself humming “When It’s Gone It’s Gone” at idle moments. Sam has definitely assembled a crack band, too. Check out Rachel Feldman’s bass lines! And I still love this Mumford’s song.
Poison Control Center – Sad Sour Future
One of this year’s most important albums for Iowa music fans. I think the last real “breakout” Iowa band was probably Modern Life Is War (at least if you follow the hardcore scene — I didn’t realize how big they had gotten until I started noticing them name-dropped in unexpected corners of the Web) but now in 2010 we have Davenport’s Mondo Drag and these guys both releasing a strong album, playing some big shows, and working the road hard. Of the two, PCC definitely get more press in central Iowa (Mondo Drag got as much as a slightly puzzled mention on the We Hate Music podcast last week), and they have a long history here and mountains of well-deserved love and respect. What criticism Sad Sour Future draws seems to be for its length, but there isn’t a bum song on it. 17 songs in 71 minutes just reflects the firehose of creativity that these guys are. The curse-side of this blessing is that it’s hard to name a standout song or three in the midst of such a big slab of consistently fine material. Also I wonder whether the music scene is yet ready for an updating of Pavementesque slacker guitars and mid-period Flaming Lips whimsy — a lot of the core audience for that kind of thing is grown-up, settled-down, and has a hard time making it out to the rock clubs for anything less than ’90s heroes reunited. Will today’s indie kids hear this as something new or something old? Hopefully they hear is for what it is, something awesome.
Olde Growth s/t
I missed out on the limited edition of 100 CDs this two-man psychedelic doom band self-released this year but did grab a download while they were still giving them out and am looking forward to Meteor City putting it out next year. Will probably write a little more about it then.
It’s True! s/t
One of my top albums of the year by a Midwest band, maybe by any band, this CD out of Omaha deserves as much accolades on artistry alone as does Sad Sour Future. Heard it playing between sets at the Mews recently and wanted to shout to the crowd to quiet down for a couple minutes to listen. I didn’t mention it in my earlier article, but at times Adam Hawkins’s voice reminds me George Michael in his prime, and it works awesomely (see “What Have I Done?”). Last I heard, Hawkins moved to Ames, so I’m guessing this lineup is over. Hopefully he hooks up with a new crew and makes another record this good.
Cathedral – The Guessing Game
Another album of possibly excessive length, this was actually my introduction to these doom-metal stalwarts, and it may not be the best album for that, given how much has been made of the incorporation of early 70s prog-rock influences as a new element to the sound. The progressive melodies and mellotrons work beautifully on the instrumental title track, “Death of an Anarchist,” “Cats, Incense, Candles & Wine,” and a few other tracks, but the transitions between metal chug and odd-meter marimbas on “Funeral of Dreams” still feel clunky. Said track, coming early in the album, also suffers from another of the album’s downfalls, which is the occasional presence of some rather corny lyrics, especially when Lee Dorian goes for the simplistic attacks on the sociopolitical establishment and Christianity. But then again, these work toward the same everyman appeal that doom metal so often builds on, that got my attention the first time I heard a St. Vitus album. Still, I often find myself moving on before this track is up, forgetting how I’d be rewarded if I stuck it out. The band displays very accomplished musicianship and writing, both on the proggy bits and when they are in their wheelhouse of ominous crunchy riffage. Predominantly clean vocals and a lot of very catchy riffs and melodies give the album some pop appeal; in a better world, the ode to Edwige Fenech (I had to Google for the reference, to be honest) “Edwige’s Eyes” would be a radio hit. But there’s a good measure of heaviness and appealingly “difficult” moments like “The Running Man,” which revisits the pounding of King Crimson’s classic “21st Century Schizoid Man” then builds into a noise rave-up. Generally though, Cathedral have gone beyond mere riffing and dark atmosphere to write songs, which is something I really enjoy hearing in a heavy album.