Little Mafia Records
Callupsie's self-titled debut is a valiant attempt to capture the energy and goodwill that the band's live shows have become known for. The good news for local fans is that the endeavor largely succeeds, even if songs occasionally falter under the duress of rushed recording methods.
Quickly produced over two sessions by Stephen Egerton at Armstrong studios, the album maintains a loosey-goosey approach that greatly complements the quartet's jazz-punk aesthetic. Because guitarists Aaron Hamby and Clay Welch specialize in the kind of intricate, interweaving guitar melodies that must be executed flawlessly in order to succeed, any wrong note or false moment could potentially derail an entire song. Thankfully, these missteps are few and far between. Songs like "Poltergeist Lights" and "The Murderous Type" pop with color and pathos, the always-impressive, reverb-heavy guitar work supported by drummer Liz Wattoff's and bassist Sam Ewing's (since replaced by Daniel Sutliff) utilitarian rhythm section, and Hamby's quirky, heartfelt vocal melodies effectively ground each song with a deranged playfulness.
The majority of the album is well-paced, but the last few tracks start to meander. "Lemons", a mewithoutYou-type foray into spoken-word hardcore, is an interesting digression but feels awkward and out of place on the album. The same goes for the following track, "For Ben," an instrumental tangent that's easily the least successful of ten tracks. Last song "The End" comes close to recapturing the lost energy, but is ultimately marred by a schizophrenic and unnecessary last forty-five seconds.
These are forgivable and expected flaws, and the bottom line is that the album is a catchy, largely successful first effort from a band that Tulsans should be proud to call their own.
With the exception of Sigur Ros, Muse puts on the best live show that you will ever have the chance to see. Last year, I had the opportunity to experience them at Austin City Limits. Unfortunately, they were playing at the same time as Arcade Fire, another band well-known for amazing live performances. I flipped a coin and reluctantly went with Muse. Little did I know...
Over nearly two hours, the British pop metal trio assaulted the large crowd with a manic, anthemic, epileptics-be-warned visual and auditory feast for the ears. Once the show ended, a palpable elation was felt throughout the sweaty, exhausted thousands, and the general feeling was one of euphoric satisfaction at having just experienced the rock show of a lifetime. If I sound hyperbolic, it's because you've never experienced the fist-pumping transcendence of Muse live.
H.A.A.R.P., a live album recorded over two sold-out nights at Wembley Stadium, captures the experience with enough accuracy to evoke overwhelming nostalgia. Though their studio work is largely dismissed by the critical community as being theatrical, self-indulgent kitsch, there's no denying that the members of Muse are master showmen, and H.A.A.R.P. possesses the proof of this in spades.
The album's highpoint is easily "Stockholm Syndrome", a shredder of a power anthem that the band frequently uses to close performances. Other songs like "Knights of Cydonia," "Starlight" and "Time is Running Out" all benefit greatly from the charisma of frontman Matthew Bellamy and the willingness of the audience to participate in sing-a-longs (a frequent occurrence).
The debut LP of this Chapel Hill post-hardcore band contains a fast and furious nine tracks that barely span 30 minutes; it's a brief-but-assaultive record that's loud and fast, full of fuzzy dissonance, revolving time signatures and aggressive melody as delivered by charismatic guitarist/lead vocalist Heather McEntire. Songs like "Depart (I Never Knew You)" and "Run, Rabbit, Run" churn and stew as if trapped in a pressure-cooker; songs frequently find release in punctuated, frantic rhythm freak-outs that just as quickly return to the tension of restraint. Obligatory slow tracks "Stranger" and "Be Still & Know" offer brief interludes to the insanity with quiet contemplation that recall, at various points, both Sonic Youth and early Blonde Redhead, but the music is by and large loud and unrelenting.
With the Mountain Goats' John Darnielle championing them, the largely unknown band landed a record deal with Southern and is now on the verge of significantly more exposure. Based on the strength of Cavalcade, any success that Bellafea achieves in the coming months will be well-deserved.
Death Cab for Cutie
"Indie" pop band Death Cab for Cutie opens its major-label sophomore release with 41 seconds of what could very well be a clip lifted from their seminal work, 2000's We Have the Facts and We're Voting Yes. For less than a minute, "Bixby, Canyon Bridge" evoked a nostalgic desire for simpler times when the term "OC" was just a geographical abbreviation and Ben Gibbard eloquently voiced the pangs of romantic yearning and heartache for introverted 18 year-old boys across the country.
The track ended as soon as it started. Track two, single "I Will Possess Your Heart", takes the exact opposite approach and presents a band that's modestly reaching for new heights. At over eight minutes long, it's an unlikely first single, especially for a band that, over the last three years, seemed to grasp for mainstream success at every turn. But sure enough, the song starts off with a slowly accelerating bass line that builds up over four minutes before finally commencing with the signature Chris Walla/Gibbard guitar/vocals tag team that makes up the bulk of Death Cab's music & lyrics.
These two songs coupled together and split in half is more or less what Narrow Stairs is as a whole. At points the album feels like a throwback, but the band has so many weirdo ideas this time around that much of the experience feels like a fight between progression and regression. The music that emerges from this dichotomous conflict is, thankfully, largely successful in finding its footing. It's not exactly their old glory days, but it's a respectable entry into the Death Cab catalogue.
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