Heathen Sons – Through The Eyes Of A Lion – 2015

heathen-sons-through-the-eyes-of-the-lion-ep

This is certainly an exceptional time of year for rock music. Whether it’s the easy-going melancholy of Great Peacock or the sweat-soaked Tulsa heat brought to us by John Moreland, there’s plenty of seasonally appropriate weather to get us into summer. Through The Eyes Of A Lion is a brand new EP from a brand new band, Nashville-based Heathen Sons, and it is positively soaked in vitamin D.

From the catchy introductory rifts on “Futures”, the first track, you are brought into what might as well be the chronicle of the Fourth of July (the fun ones we have now, not the one that lead to a war). The rhythm section keeps the song moving along, and the counterpoint of guitar and vocals are perfectly self-indulgent for a drive to the beach.

The individual songs may remind you of pop-rock summer fare you’ve heard before, but I guarantee there’s more depth both sonically and lyrically than you may pick up on at first listen. This is a young band stretching its legs, and over the five tracks of this EP you’ll get a feel for what they can do. “Fourth of July” is the perfect example of a catchy tune that would have you on your feet whether you saw them playing in a dive bar on a Tuesday or under marquee lights over the weekend:

‘Cause you’re a little like heartbreak

Even more like cocaine

It’s a little more than I can take

Do you really wanna let me in?

I’m ready to drive around with my windows down, drink all day with friends, then get suitably moody after the sun sets; if those things are things that appeal to you guys as well, I think Through The Eyes Of A Lion by Heathen Sons is worth a look.

Like them over on Facebook, then pick up the record from iTunes or Amazon.

Fourth of July

Great Peacock – Making Ghosts – 2015

Making Ghosts

Today sees the first full-length release of the This Is American Music darlings Great Peacock. Centered around songwriters and-cofounders Andrew Nelson and Blount Floyd, Great Peacock is well on their way to proving that slow and steady really does win the race. Two years after the release of their self-titled EP, Making Ghosts (which features some re-recording of older songs) shows a band zeroing in on their sound and presentation.

Let it never be said that Ninebullets.net doesn’t have a place for polish: these eleven tracks reach us from the bubblegum-center of candy coated Nashville, and they’re as crisp and clear as you’d expect from a dispatch from that most polarizing and polarized music capital. But crisp and clear needn’t be insults, especially not when they’re combined with the sincerity and earnestness evident in these songs. There’s something refreshing about how good these songs sound, something comforting about knowing that like as not, Great Peacock will find an audience on terrestrial radio. The keening sorrow of pedal steel is practically a third vocalist on the album, and the tones are sharp enough to cut you to pieces.

There are the songs you know by now if you’ve been following the band: the uplifting anthem “Take Me To The Mountain”, the world-weary ballad of the touring band “Tennessee”, the bright harmonies of “Desert Lark”. These songs, in conjunction with the new tracks, demonstrate how capable artists can blur the lines between independent and pop; this is a record you can put on at a party without offending any of your friends’ varied musical tastes.

The opening track, “Making Ghosts”, features typical Great Peacock soaring harmonies and relaxed delivery. These guys know where they’re going and don’t mind stopping to smell the roses on the way, even during a love-lorn rock-driven beseeching of one’s love. The quiet and relentless “Church Bells” is up next, and it serves as a solid reminder that intensity doesn’t require shouting or wild electric guitars. The record is full of moments like this, little confirmations about the importance and influence of music.

Whether it’s with haunting vocals or complex and beautiful instrumentation, Great Peacock is a band endeavoring to draw an emotional response from their audience. If only all pop music was as sincere, as vulnerable, as welcoming.

Pick the record up on Bandcamp, like the band on Facebook, and check out the TIAM site for more great music

01 Making Ghosts

03 Tennessee

10 Arms

Mixtape: "Hole Dozer"

hole dozer

So I’ve been working a lot lately, and thinking about work. I’m too exhausted to put much thought into this post, so I’m not going to. I have a lot of feelings about work, and you can find a lot of them in this mixtape.

It has a lot of stuff I really love: starts out with a rare Lucero track, has some live Lee Bains III, good ol’ Tim Barry, and is (I believe) the Ninebullets debut of a little-known artist named Kanye West.

Give it a listen and let me know what you like to have in your ears at work. For me it’s audiobooks, rock operas, and the constant needling of my own self-doubt.

I want to get more into making mixtapes for folks, and maybe podcasting in the manner of our very own Charles Hale’s Ajax Diner Book Club. So here’s a taste of what I bring to the table, pun from mixing metaphors neither intended nor appreciated.

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Hole Dozer Mixtape Track Listing

1. “The Bridge” – Lucero

2. “Last Of The Working Slobs” – The Von Erichs

3. “Saturday Night – Two Cow Garage

4. “Mutiny” – William Elliot Whitmore

5.  “Save Your Money for the Weekend” – Glossary

6.  “Spaceship” – Kanye West (feat. GLC & Consequence)

7. “Ne’er Do Wells” – Audra Mae

8. “Sweat & Cigarettes” – John Moreland

9. “Moonshiner” – SCORPIOS

10. “Avoiding Catatonic Surrender” – Tim Barry

11. “Br00tal” – Drag The River

12. “A Company Town” – Matt Woods

13. “Five O’Clock World” – The Vogues

14. “Four Score And Seven” – Titus Andronicus

15. “Dirt Track (Live on WFMU)” – Lee Bains III & The Glory Fires

Young Valley – No Filter – 2014

No Filter

Young Valley is the perfect example of why you always show up for the opener. Headed to my number who-knows Lucero show, I got to the venue (Brewsky’s in Hattiesburg, Mississippi) a few minutes after ate, and heard the band through the walls: there was a classic country guitar-walking beat, someone name-dropped Jesus Christ, and I heard the words ‘Holy Ghost’ in the chorus…this did not sound like your standard Lucero opening band. Tuning his guitar and with his eyes on his shoes, lead singer Zach Lovett reminded the audience with some sincerity to, “Say your prayers, folks.” I will admit that I started to get a little nervous.

The band started in on their next song, though, and I was blown away. Zach Lovett sings about Heaven and Hell with equal ease, alternating the goofy hip-shakes of a youth pastor  as he strums his acoustic guitar with the stomping and howling of a disgraced revival preacher. His twin brother Dylan is on lead guitar and seemed at first to follow the Brian Venable model of shredder, equal parts skill, subdued nature, and beard. But Dylan writes and sings several of his own songs as well, and though his voice doesn’t have his brother’s power it possesses a sweet tone and earnestness that is just as striking.

Young Valley kept the attention of the boys from Lucero for the entirety of their set, and at the end of the show Ben Nichols used his pulpit to espouse their virtures: “We already bought three copies of their CD…y’all already own our shit. Go buy their shit! They’re the best opening band I’ve seen in a long time.” [Author’s Note: I bought the record because they were badass, not because Ben Nichols told me to]

Listening to the record, No Filter, on the long drive back to Louisiana was an absolute treat. The band has roots in a lot of older music, when the lines between rock’n’roll, country, and blues were much thinner. These boys are from Jackson, Mississippi and proud of it. But this is by no means a genre record: it dances from the Bakersfield sound of “The Way It Has To Be” to the much more modern vibe of “The Fly” with ease. Each of the Lovett brothers has their vocal prowess and songwriting talent on display over these thirteen tracks, and the band can stay tightly together or cut loose with the best of them. It has everything you could want from a debut album: pedal steel, piano, sad acoustic numbers, stomp-worthy rock and roll, heartache, and the Devil.

This is the time to start listening to a  band, when you can watch them grow, cheer them on, and have a beer with them after the show. If No Filter is any indication, the sky is the limit for Young Valley.

Pick up this record on Amazon or iTunes, then like these guys over on Facebook.

The Way It Has To Be

Heartbreaker Like You

Runnin’ Home

Waxahatchee – Ivy Tripp – 2015

ivy tripp

If you’re looking for a record to kick you in the guts, have I found one for you. Katie Crutchfield is a singer-songwriter from Alabama, and she’s released several solo records under the name Waxahatchee. The most recent is named Ivy Tripp, and it’s an alternatingly tortuous and bubbly emotional roller coaster. This is the record for when “I don’t know what I’m doing” and “I know what I’m going to do” overlap.

Crutchfield’s lyrics are like a Rubik’s Cube: seemingly simple and colorful, but difficult to parse. Once you apply yourself, however, and start to think about the words as a whole, the puzzle starts to unlock. Some songs include only hints and suggestions, the specific being unnecessary to evoke the necessary emotion. These songs manage to encapsulate whole relationships in four minute time-spans, and they aren’t just the ballads of the heartbroken. There are songs for heartbreakers, home-wreckers, and those who don’t need another human in their lives.

“You look at me like I’m a rose

Singing a song that you don’t know

And you always walk so slow

If I was foolish I would chase

A feeling I long ago let fade

And we could be good for days”

Motion and stillness are constant motifs, with the unspoken question being: which is the right choice? This constant struggle between push and pull is stressful for most of us, and anxiety permeates most of these songs. Other emotions are tied together as well; “The Dirt” combines a brash confidence with the depression-tinged realization “I’m a basement brimming with nothing great”.

The songs are all over the place musically, with Crutchfield’s soulful voice and crushing lyrics as the only consistency. There is the almost-ambient slowness of “Breathless” followed by the more traditional pop-rock chords of “Under a Rock”, the manic chaos of a song entitled “<” before the light and breezy “Grey Hair”. There’s acoustic guitars and synthesizers and keyboards and tambourines; every musician involved played multiple instruments all over the record.

What manages to keep all of these songs together and make this album cohesive is the feeling, the emotion that binds them like some heartbreaking Force. This record exists for when you’re looking at someone and your heart beats faster at the same time that your breath gets more shallow, whatever the circumstance may be. If you’ve ever wanted music to simultaneously soothe you and leave you stricken, grab this album.

Pick up Ivy Tripp from Merge Records’ website, and check her out on Twitter and Facebook.

Breathless

Under a Rock

Bonfire

Bohannons – Black Cross, Black Shield – 2015

Black Cross Black Shield

It was our own Autopsy IV who wrote about the Chattanooga, TN based Bohannons:

“Are they country? Are they blues? Are they 70’s glam metal?
Yes.”

Their newest release Black Cross, Black Shield doubles down on the ‘blues’ and the ‘metal’ in that recipe. It’s an ocean of a record: broad, in ceaseless motion, with depths as chilling as they are dark. The Bohannons’ sound is still unquestionably Southern, occasionally reminiscent of the Drive-By Truckers or Neil Young but most often a beast all its own.

Guitars ring out just as clearly as the vocals, with the pitch and tenor of the Bohannons’ voices seeming to match their instruments exactly. The bass and drums lumber along methodically like a horror movie villain, never in a rush but always lurking. Black Cross crosses from haunting to raging and back again, occasionally in the space of a single verse. The bluesy riffs of the piano in “Death and Taxes” evoke sorrow while the guitars scream in frustration, and the harmonica in “Red, White, Black, and Pale” is just as fearsome as the horsemen the song describes, riding herd over the rest of the instrumentation.

The lyrical content of the album weighs on you just like the melodies do. The title track conjures the existential fear that is being poor and seriously ill in America; the singer alternates between begging the listener to tell neither his mother or his God that he’s sick. “Dias De Las Muertas” is a condemnation of the immigration witch hunts occurring across the South, lamenting the loss of a friend to ‘zip ties and cold asphalt’ while churning guitars ride roughshod over a plaintive piano. Several songs deal with death and loss from various perspectives, never shying away from the reality: someday someone you love will die, and it’s not going to be easy. This album isn’t about giving up, though…the Bohannons are exalting in our instinct to push through obstacles, to remember the past, and not to give up on the future.

Black Cross, Black Shield isn’t a feel-good record, but rock’n’roll isn’t always a feel-good endeavor. The Bohannons put out a record taking an honest look at the hardships facing human beings on a daily basis, at the dueling despair and drive present in most people on most days. It may not be the easiest thing to face, but it sure does make for a good rock and roll record.

Pick up Black Cross, Black Shield from their Bandcamp or over on This Is American Music

Black Cross / Black Shield

Dias De Las Muertas (Day of the Dead)

Red, White, Black, and Pale

 

 

WHAT'S THE DEAL WITH JKUTCHMA'S "BLUE HIGHWAYS"?

blue highways

For those of you that don’t know, JKutchma‘s new record, Blue Highways, is one 40 minute long track encompassing nine songs. It also cuts off abruptly at the end, in the middle of a chorus. All of this is by design, as you would expect from a canny veteran like Kutchma. I got the chance to talk to him about the record last week here in New Orleans, and immediately relayed the conversation to the Ninebullets writing staff before the Miller High Life washed it all away. With Jason’s permission, here’s the method behind the madness of Blue Highways:

First off, the length. The 40 minute run time of the record is designed to evoke the 40 minutes surrounding a sunrise or sunset, from the time the sky begins to change until it regains its uniformity. Much like myself, it seems, Kutchma endeavors to begin road trips before everything is fixed in place. Even if the actual rising or setting only takes 3 minutes, the change from day to night takes much longer, and that kind of transformation is what he wanted to capture.

Then there’s the single track nature of the album. Releasing the record as a single track is something Kutchma had been wrestling with since its conception. When he was debating whether or not to release the record in two versions (one 40 minutes long and one track, one divided into tracks), he heard a conversation on a music podcast he respects a lot. They were talking about an artist they’d seen at SXSW: this artist (Le Butcherettes) was so hard to find now, that to buy a record you couldn’t go to iTunes or Amazon…you had to actually go to their website. That was when Kutchma decided, in his own words, “Fuck everyone in the universe. I’m doing what I want.” If people think going to a website is so difficult, if they need art handed to them on a silver platter, they don’t deserve it.

Later, a blog asked him for individual tracks to promote the album. He weighed the idea of releasing singles, and asked his wife Beth (seen at the Holiday Hangout playing bass for Red Collar in pearls) about it. She told him, “If you want to do that just because it’s what’s done, then it’s not your artistic vision. You’re only doing it because it’s what people want, and that’s not who you are.” That sound advice settled the matter for him. If you like a song on this record, but don’t like it enough to open up garage band or audacity and select and save the track as a new mp3 yourself…you probably don’t like it as much as you think you do.

And that is the summation I can give you of my conversation with the indescribably cool JKutchma and his stellar wife Beth.

Ninebullets has a review of Blue Highways coming down the pipeline, but in the meantime you can pick it up in digital form from his Bandcamp, or nab a fancy version of the release from the Last Chance Records Store.

Micah Schnabel – Not The Boy You Used To Know – 2015

cover

 

Every once in a while an artist releases something that unlike any of their previous efforts, keeping the audience on their toes about any possible expectations and hopefully feeling fresh and relevant while doing it. That adequately describes the sound and fury of Micah Schnabel‘s new EP Not The Boy You Used To Know. Our hard and fast rule about not reviewing EPs can at times be anything but, and new music from one of the songwriters behind Ninebullets stalwart Two Cow Garage is obviously going to snap that rule in half.

The album opens with “Scared of Heights”, the song most sonically similar to Micah’s previous solo offerings. As the song goes on, however, you’ll hear plenty that’s new: carefully placed electric guitar hovering in the background, a joyful organ, and perhaps most notably a greater maturity and resonance in Schnabel’s voice. These songs are the closest to his speaking voice that I’ve heard him sing, and that lends an earnest and frank tone. In many ways this isn’t the same man who penned “American Static” or “Cut Me, Mick”, and he lets us know that up front.

“Awe shucks I’m just happy to be here

But I’m not your little brother anymore.”

I’ve covered another two of the songs, “More Drugs” and “Bang! Bang! Bang!” for the site previously, and I still stand by everything I said. There are songs about the past and songs that use the past as framing for the future; all of Micah’s reminiscing on Not The Boy You Used To Know is decidedly the latter. While I may disagree about the existence of objective “good” and “bad” (it could just be my heavily D&D influenced childhood), I’m 100% with everyone trying to take themselves less seriously.

This maturity is on full display in the EP’s title track and centerpiece. It has a tempo, a melody, a drive and urgency, a vintage sound (complete with doo-wop background singers)…plenty of things that might not be expected to mesh well with Micah’s wry writing and blunt delivery, but this album is all about smashing expectations. None of us are the people we used to be, and if we don’t like the people we are now we can sure as hell change that now.

“I just got so tired of trying to rock the boat

So I’m sinking this fucking ship, and I am hoping that I float

I would take the thousand deaths of a sailor lost at sea

Than swim safely into shore on the wave of mediocrity”

Not The Boy You Used To Know is a stellar reminder of the absurdity and fragility in life, and the message is clear: if you don’t like where the current is taking you, sink the fucking ship.

Head over to Micah’s Bandcamp to pick up a digital or physical copy of the EP, check out his Big Cartel store, and follow him on Twitter. While you’re at it, check out Two Cow Garage at their upcoming shows!

 

Not the Boy You Used To Know

 

Queer Country Monthly Party in Brooklyn

 

So some of our more diligent followers may remember this post from local scribe Charles Hale:

One of the great things about our little musical community is its level of tolerance. Like many of you, I am connected via social media that I only know because our musical tastes intersect. (It’s the only way I know Rachel) And through all this connectedness I never witness intolerance and bigotry, but that doesn’t mean that those issues don’t exist in the world. We are the oddballs of the musical world and we take people as they come. Open hearts and scars all around.

By purchasing this compilation you’ll be able to put a little money where your mouth is. You’ll see names you recognize like Matt Woods and Uncle Leon and the Alibis on this compilation but you’ll also be introduced to artists you might come to love. These artists have chosen to put their art where their hearts are and I hope you’ll find it in yours to support FIERCE.

Well up there in the big city the time has come to have a party! Adobe and Teardrops and Karen and the Sorrows are co-hosting this month’s Queer Country Monthly in Brooklyn, and the proceeds will go to FIERCE, a youth empowerment organization for LGBTQ young people.

If you’re not reading Adobe and Teardrops, you should. We cover much of the same ground musically, but there’s always more music than any one space can cover, and I usually hear something new that I really dig when I check her site out. She asked me to let folks know about this party, and here I am, letting folks know. It isn’t the easiest thing in the world to find a good country show in Brooklyn, I’m sure, and even if you haven’t said to yourself “I need to go to a queer music show” you probably should. I had a great conversation with Gregory McKillop (whose record I reviewed earlier this year) about diversity in our little corner of the music world, and a lot of it boils down to going to see shows you wouldn’t normally see. Talk to people you wouldn’t normally talk to, and make sure you do just as much listening as talking. That conversation is marinating, and I’m sure I’ll talk about it soon in the meantime…tell your friends in NYC to go to a party!!

Where: Branded Saloon (603 Vanderbilt Ave, Brooklyn, NY)
When: Saturday, 3/21 at 8 PM
Who: Me, Small Talk, The Paisley Fields, Karen and the Sorrows
How Much: $5 though no one is turned away,. $10+ gets you a download card!

THE DISTRICTS – A FLOURISH AND A SPOIL – 2015

a flourish

Our very own Charles Hale, well aware of my constant need to be exposed to new music, threw out a record to me: A Flourish And A Spoil by The Districts. I was intrigued by the introductory track: initially all bass and percussion, you’re gradually eased in to crashing waves of guitar and vocals, fuzzy and forceful and wild. This song, “4th and Roebling”, will remind you of several other bands you’ve heard, no doubt. But there’s a persistence in the lyricism, an unrelenting element to the instrumentation, that lets you know there’s a point to all of this beyond an ‘indie rock’ sound.

These songs sound torn more than written. I keep using the word ‘heavy’ to describe the content of albums I review, and that could be due to my own lack of vocabulary or it could be due to the pull, the draw, of powerful music. Slugging music, more Foreman than Ali. In that opening track, the singer laments

“I ain’t the same anymore / I ain’t the same as before / You gone and changed, I’m sure”

in a song about how powerful your sense of self can be wrapped up in your love, and how everything can be turned upside down so easily. It’s a picture that’s painted for the audience instead of a screenplay laid out, formulaic and coherent.

Another memorable track is “Suburban Smell”, an evisceration of childhoods spent safe and secure while discrimination and conformity bubble underneath the surface. This album is a collection of delicately threaded needles: powerful rhythm-heavy tracks that you find yourself swaying to, nodding along with the beat. It’s an album that you find unsettles you when a lyric catches you in an off moment and galvanizes a feeling you had when you were a different person, or reminds you of something long gone.

You can buy A Flourish And A Spoil over on Fat Possum records, and check out the band on Facebook and Twitter.