Catching up with local releases

Here are four reviews that should have been up here a long time ago.  I’m still not caught up, but I should hopefully have a few more done by the end of the weekend.  Albums reviewed below:

Qurious – Planet Plant

Trench Party – Kitchen EP

Carnivores – If I’m Ancient

Mermaids – Tropsicle

Qurious – Planet Plant

I knew basically nothing about Qurious before checking out Planet Plant. I had seen their name on a lot of local bills lately, so I looked them up. Turns out Planet Plant is available for free download via Double Phantom/Bandcamp. I downloaded it and hit play with zero expectations, and it has turned out to be one of the most pleasant local surprises I’ve encountered all year.

Qurious is a duo that traffics in chilly, electronic pop. Their Bandcamp describes their music as “space noise,” and I think that’s an entirely appropriate description. They sound like an icier, indoor cousin of High Places’ collage-pop, with equally ethereal female vocals. Cocteau Twins are another obvious comparison since many of these songs sound like an alien version of pop piped in from some other planet.

There’s range here, too. “Saltation” and “Flowers” are playful and direct, almost danceable even, but the second half of the record is dominated by longer tracks that are more often ambient than beat-driven. Their next record could be either straightforward electronic pop or dense drone, and neither direction would be all that surprising. For now, though, those two sensibilities sit side by side, and the result is pretty appealing.

Trench Party – Kitchen EP

Trench Party is the solo project of Jake Cook.  When he sent me a link this EP a little over a month ago, it was his most current release.  He’s so prolific, though, that this is no longer the case – he’s got a new one called Hack out now.  Take a look at all the guy’s releases – he’s a machine.

Trench Party (at least on record, anyway) is lo-fi singer-songwriter stuff, mostly built around just voice and guitar.  Cook sings it all earnestly, even when he’s being kind of a smartass.  It has the effect of making him sound like something of a DIY basement Jonathan Richman, which is a pretty good thing to sound like.  Kitchen and all his other releases are available for free download here.

Carnivores – If I’m Ancient

Carnivores are making some people angry. Just check some of these comments. It seems like some people can’t get their head around the idea that this is the Atlanta band getting positive notices in Pitchfork, Alternative Press, and the fucking New York Times. I suspect that most of those people haven’t heard If I’m Ancient.

This is a better album than I thought Carnivores were capable of making. All Night Dead U.S.A. was solid, but it didn’t really anticipate how good the follow up was going to be. It just felt too undercooked, fashionably lo-fi and occasionally murky in a way that didn’t seem purposeful. It had a handful of killer tracks, but it didn’t cohere as much of an album. If I’m Ancient does.

The greatest improvement is in the blurred, noisy edges. On maybe half the tracks, guitarist Nathaniel Higgins opts to throw up sheets of echoey noise instead of playing traditional leads. He doesn’t play like he’s in punk-leaning indie rock band, and it gives them an edge. Opener “Feral Children” is the ideal introduction to this approach. It opens as a flailing ear-bleeder, but around the halfway point something happens. The rhythm section relents, and the bass line starts to suggest pop, but that wall of noise persists through the bitter end.

They work just as well at a slower pace, too. “Georgia Power Company” and “Salts to Mines” are, to my ears, the best things they’ve ever recorded, and neither of them comes anywhere close to bludgeon mode.

If you’ve written Carnivores off in the past, I would urge you to at least give this album a chance before sniping about their rise in profile. Even if you don’t like If I’m Ancient, it shouldn’t be hard to see how this is appealing to people both inside and outside of Atlanta.

Mermaids – Tropsicle

The core of Mermaids‘ sound is pretty basic.  It’s verse-chorus-verse surf-pop built on hooks and vocal harmonies, with influences that don’t get any more recent than the 1960s.  There obviously isn’t any shortage of indie rock bands mining this same territory, but Mermaids do it better than most, partly because they bothered to write actual songs to go along with all the retro fetishism.  “Frozen in Time” has enough distinct hooks to power a whole album, while “Whirpool” and “Everybody’s Acting Like an Animal” are direct, instantly memorable bursts of pop.

They also take a spacier approach than most of their peers.  Guitarist Josh Hughes is usually doing something stranger and more interesting than what you would expect from a band built on such familiar parts, and his guitar lines can sometimes add a sinister cloud to their otherwise sunny sound.  And sunny is definitely the right word for the production.  It all bleeds together a bit at times, but the record sounds warm throughout, the kind of thing that begs for a turntable.

    • springwardrobe
    • November 7th, 2010

    Mermaids’ album fucking rocks. I only wish I had a download code to go along with the album so I could play it in my car.

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