erasing clouds

4 Music Reviews

Robert Deeble, This Bar Has No One Left (Fractured Discs)

As Robert Deeble's This Bar Has No One Left EP opens, our narrator is looking weary and feeling melancholy, slumped down in a dark, smoke-filled bar, well after midnight, or is it tomorrow already? "Some bartenders look as priests at midnight mass," he tells us, later talking about the aged ghosts who sit at the bar, occasionally spilling out their hard-life stories, "in a cigarette voice". The music is slow and shadowy; Deebles sings like a one-time rock star who is now trapped in a fog of smoke and booze, or like Richard Buckner after a bender. The third song "Clowned" offers an abrupt shift in tone, towards clarity, of sound and mind. And sure, enough, we've switched to an outsider's perspective: "All my friends they go to the bar every Tuesday...", he begins. As a songwriter, Deeble has a gift at taking us right into the moment, clearly communicating a mood and state of mind. He's quite the storyteller, too, but these songs are also marked by the crisp arrangements, the way each note on the piano or guitar resonates, and how present his singing feels, even when he's nearly mumbling to convey the weary tone of someone filled with decades of pain and regrets, who has turned in on himself, and sunk into a drunken haze. - dave heaton

Maquiladora, A House All on Fire (Darla)

Images of the Western United States are so ubiquitous in art (music, books, film, TV, etc.) that, to those of us in other locations, 'the West' almost seems imaginary, like an idea more than a concrete place. Then there's art that dismantles the stock imaginary and replaces it with something more tangible or personal, that offers a vivid sense of place, without resorting to archetypes. That's the approach Maquiladora take to their native California. They play gorgeous music that feels like it's rooted in the band members' local surroundings. Their music is of the American West, but without any of the cowboy trappings. Country music stripped of everything that would identify it as such. Their intimate, stripped-down songs contain within them the feeling of a wide-open desert, of a star-filled sky, of the ocean at dusk. On their latest album A House All on Fire the songs rumble forth slowly, each carrying with it its own inner demons, dreams, demons, and wishes for love. A majestic, melancholy sound is built from simple parts - a snare drum, a piano, guitars. Voices sing together and stand alone, full of yearning. Guitars play a slow blues and then dart upwards to circle lightly around the sun. A dog barks at ghosts in the background, as the band sings simple, sad songs, and then stretches out until their music resembles the desert itself, wild and filled with endless mystery. - dave heaton

Tangiers, The Family Myth (French Kiss Records)

2003, 2004, and now's becoming a pattern. Each year, Tangiers releases a fantastic rock album that transcends the efforts of their peers by being hard-hitting and infectious but at the same time complex. This year's model, their third album The Family Myth, builds from the foundation of the previous two. The basic sound is potent, melodic, bluesy rock, with echoes of rock music past - UK and NYC punkers and post-punkers and garage-rockers and mop-tops and what-have-you - but also their own unique personality. Their songs encapsulate the genuine anxiety of life, but are also hook-filled and catchy as all get out, ready to be played again, and again, and again. The Family Myth fits that same description, but the lean-and-mean sound of the previous two albums has shifted in a more textured, moodier direction, yet without losing any of its speed or power. There's a dramatic, sweeping, romantic feeling to these songs, reminiscent in some small way of Ocean Rain-era Echo & the Bunnymen. It's fitting for songs that are often concerned with history and legend, the ways they're invented and the effect they have. It also fits with the other seeming obsession of the album: love. The story of love here isn't a rosy, everything's perfect one; it's filled with pain and hurt and damage and death. Much like other historical tales. Affairs of the heart and international power struggles seem entwined together in The Family Myth. The narrative quality of the songs combine with the album's overall cohesive sound to give the sense that Tangiers is telling one cohesive story, even though they certainly are not. Instead they're offering us a pleasure-filled, dynamite rock album which meanwhile is filling our ears with wisps of intriguing stories, large and small. - dave heaton

The Twin Atlas, Sun Township (Tappersize Records)

In every album-art photo for the new Twin Atlas album Sun Township, there's a glow emanating from somewhere or something, whether it's a globe in the corner or the rising sun. That mysterious glow is an apt metaphor for the feeling of the album as a whole, for the warmth and enigmatic beauty of Sean Byrne's gentle folk-pop songs. Sun Township's sound makes you imagine the duo - Byrne and Lucas Zaleski - sitting on a roof as the sun rises or falls, playing songs amidst silence and haze. Byrne sings gently, the melodies soft yet potent, his lyrics often evocative of fleeting feelings or times. "Rearview Pictures", one song is called. "Lost Way Falling", another. Another includes the haunting line, "Sounds like the ones you hear in memories / echo off the years that fade away". Sun Township is a gorgeous soundtrack to the passing of time. It's filled with an atmosphere of calmness and stillness, but also a prevailing feeling that everything fades. It's a portrait of time flickering away like the last wisps of daylight - ungraspable. And the same time it doesn't come across like a sad lament, more like a snapshot of what it sounds like inside the mind of someone in a contemplative state. At one point Byrne sings, "every sound in the morning you hear / will speak all the words in your mind", a line that resonates well with the impressionistic music on Sun Township, the way it captures a certain mind-state, a certain mood. - dave heaton

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