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Monday, May 08, 2006

What's So Great about the Barrier Reef?

As if yesterday's post wasn't long enough, Jason still asked me: what's so great about bands like Band of Horses, Sufjan Stevens, the Black Angels, SOUND team and the Secret Machines? Now I will attempt to unveil the mask that is often referred as, "I dunno -- I just like it."

Band of Horses, not to be confused with Horse the Band or a couple of bands called Horses, has a new record out on Sub Pop Records. I've heard a couple of tracks from Everything All the Time and the band I'm reminded of is My Morning Jacket. This is rock that isn't afraid of twang and twang that isn't afraid of rock. This isn't hokey at all and I like what I've heard. Fans of My Morning Jacket may take to this a little more or less because of the sound comparison.

Sufjan Stevens, coming off of a breakthrough album last year, recently released an album of outtakes released called The Avalanche through Asthmatic Kitty. Though I've only heard his material from Illinois (aka, Come On Feel the Illinoise), I can say that I'm really impressed with the album, but I'm not really compelled to check out more of his stuff. I gotta give him credit though: he writes some really lush acoustic pop with strings and horns sometimes showing up. His singing voice is pleasant and calm and rather unique to my ears. Unless his next album blows away everything else he's done, Illinois will be his watermark.

Austin's Black Angels have received some nice praise in the last few months. Their South By Southwest performances drew raves from a number of notable critics (like Jim DeRogatis) and their new album, Passover, is a part of such raves. I saw the Angels play a few months and wasn't wowed nor turned off. Yes, the music is hazy and psychedelic, but I don't believe you have to be under the influence to dig in. For some reason, whenever I hear their name, I keep thinking about that one Mary Katherine Gallagher skit on SNL where she tried to become a Black Angel.

SOUND team, another Austin-based band, is gearing up for the release of their major label debut album. I saw the band live a couple of years ago opening for . . . And You Will Know Us By the Trail of Dead. I really liked what they played: upbeat and layered guitar/keyboard rock. Listening to "The Fastest Man Alive" and "Movie Monster" on their MySpace page, this is what I mean. This is not post-punk, orchestral pop or mopey country twang: this is slightly sideways pop rock that could really break through to the college rock and slightly older crowd.

Secret Machines have received a lot of blog love here at the theme park. I would pinpoint my love for their stuff because of their ability to write moody rock with a pop flair over a big wall of keyboards, swirling guitars, thick bass and pounding drums. Ten Silver Drops is a bit more focused in the "getting-to-the-point" element in their sound compared to their debut, Now Here is Nowhere.

Those are my feelings on these bands, but I really don't know if others feel the same. I will say this, there is an attachment to acts that are new with a solid new record. Yes, that's a huge "duh," but somehow and for various reasons, certain acts really make strong impressions on people. People don't really know how to convey why they like or don't like something, but we all try. I don't think there's a lemming mentality going on here. I think this is about music with a certain degree of accessibility connecting with a wider, but not mainstream, audience. The more unique (but still accessible) to the average listener, the better the chances are of getting noticed.

None of the aforementioned acts sound alike, but there is a feeling that this music is way more in-depth than the kind of stuff you hear on mainstream radio and TV. This isn't for the SUV-driving mother in the suburbs scanning the radio dial for something familiar and instantly digestible. This is the kind of music that draws a closer eye, but not everyone wants to look that much closer. I refuse to say, "That's too bad," if someone were to pass up on somebody like Secret Machines because people assimilate music in so many different ways. I can't expect people to adhere to music like I do.

Now that I've done this explaining, maybe Chris, Sam, and Jason can explain to me what's so great about Midlake's "Roscoe." Yes, I like Fleetwood Mac's pop-friendly stuff and I don't mind this song that sounds a bit like it, but I'm curious what these guys find so great about this song. The trail continues . . .

2 comments:

josh Mueller said...

The Band of Horses album, which I enjoy fine enough, sounds almost EXACTLY like the 2nd Marcy Playground album. I'll have to put an example up this week so you can hear.

J-Wo said...

My friend Christian is the lead guitar for the Black Angels. With that being said I was at that show at SXSW and thought it was ok. Seemed like a droning Jim Morrison 70s thing. Wasn't my bag but i can see how people would think that it was different and cool.