The moment from Again, for the Win‘s We’ve Been Here Forever which imprints itself on my mind occurs in the opener “Merkabah,” when lead singer Carter Francis first hollers, “We came on chariots!” above the crescendoing roar of thumping toms and accelerating guitars. The chorus comes pounding in directly afterwards, the physical presence of the incantation Francis has just let loose.
It’s a good microcosm of the album, as the music falls into that nearly visceral space where “heavy” is shared by post-rock, radio-rock and art-rock. It seems that Jimmy Eat World, Radiohead, and Sigur Ros probably get equal play in the band van: the satisfying crash of “Merkabah” gives in to the poppy “The Legend Of”; later, “Your Heaviest Light” apes the skyscraping guitars of post-rock for some beautiful moments.
But no matter which genre the band is conforming their work to, the sense of raw, untamed grit remains. Even when you can sing along to the chorus, there’s a feel that these songs have weight, shape and power. To call it art would give it the wrong connotation: this is meaningful music, and it just so happens that you’ll have the melodies stuck in your head later too. That’s a sound I can get behind.
So, I love Kickstarter and crowdsourcing sites like it. I think asking people to contribute to what they care about works. And here’s something I care about.
I was in a weird art-rock band when I started Independent Clauses, and my love of music would not be what it is today without that band. One of the members went on to be a high school band director, and “Mr. Baldwin” is now using a crowdsourcing site called Donors Choose to raise funds for two jazz saxophone mouthpieces. The total campaign is roughly $300. You should check out this project, and, if it interests you, contribute.
If this particular project doesn’t interest you, you should still check out the website. Crowdsourcing is still catching on, but it could have a big impact on the world at large; this is how that process starts.
After I covered Lord Buffalo’s excellent EP, I was informed that the same group of musicians compose another band, named Salesman. Instruments are swapped, lead vocals are exchanged, and different-sounding music is made. Where Lord Buffalo’s folk sound has a cinematic, wide-angle feel to it, Salesman’s The Wasp EP has a much more earthy, communal intimacy.
Not that these are all weepy folk strummers. Salesman is far more characterized by its vocal melodies and patterns than any other instrument. “I Will” is an ominous a capella tune augmented only by rumbling tom, whoops and yells. It is positively intimidating. “Taos Hum” has a few more instruments going on, but it’s still distinguished by a vocal performance reminiscent of Fleetwood Mac’s “Tusk.” “Giving Up (Easy Way Out)” feels like a continuation of the mood from “Taos Hum”; it’s easy to hear them as one song. “Fly Bird Fly” is a little more electronic, but it’s still firmly within the menacing, ominous, rhythm-heavy tone that Salesman has set for the songs here.
However, the opener and closer are nothing like the internal tracks of the EP. “Five Years” is a pastoral rumination, reminiscent of Fleet Foxes’ slow-moving, unfolding folk. “Ella” is an a capella track, but it’s far closer to a barbershop quartet than the pounding “I Will.” It’s the most memorable track on the album, a tune that seems to stop time for four minutes. With no instruments but voices, the song is stripped of its external markers of what should happen when; it becomes simply a free-floating, melodious experience that I didn’t want to end.
Salesman’s The Wasp EP is a diverse, interesting listening experience. If you’re up for something outside of the norm in your folk listening schedule, this will hit that spot.
Stephen Carradini and friends write reviews of bands that are trying to make the next step in their careers.