The O-town Scene

November 11, 2010

The O-town Scene - Oneonta, NY

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Music reviews Fresh and Onlys: ‘Play It Strange’ The current abundance of scrappy garage-pop bands has been great news for those looking to build their 7-inch collection or make 30-song compilations on iTunes. Most bands associated with this explosion aren't able to keep up the pace for a full album, but San Francisco's Fresh and Onlys jumps to the head of the class by maintaining momentum throughout the exceptional "Play It Strange." It was exhausting keeping up with the band during its three-year run of promis- ing singles, EPs and full-lengths, but each release contained at least one track that hinted at the great things realized here. Left behind is most of the fuzzy racket that defined its earlier work. Now the group sports a crisper sound with a late-'60s flair. "Summer of Love" is appropriately titled, with reverb-laden guitar, breezy melodies and a distinct Haight-Ashbury feel. The songs are succinct but always complete, finding that perfect mixture of jangle and kick while maintaining the utmost devotion to pop hooks. The highlight is the nearly eight-minute "Tropical Island Suite," which is both the most punk and laid-back song on the al- bum, morphing from a pounding rocker to an airy, atmospheric exercise in restraint. It's the best showcase of the band's versa- tility and consistency. _ David Malitz, The Washington Post Black Mountain: ‘Wilderness Heart’ On its first two albums, Canadian psych- rock band Black Mountain offered several long jams, clocking in at the seven- or eight-minute mark, that either featured spacey psychedelic atmospherics or guitar riffs equal parts prog and metal. The band's third effort, "Wilderness Heart," has only two songs that barely go beyond five minutes. As a result, many of the 10 downsized tracks come across as straightforward rockers, which, in an indie world still transfixed by electronic noise and dreamy haze, proves to be a refresher when the band executes. Album opener "The Hair Song" might be one of the best pure rock songs of the year, mixing in a hint of blues that loudly echoes Led Zeppelin. The haunted folk of "Radiant Hearts" shows that the band can still craft a good song without entirely abandoning the psychedelic touchstones it has used so well in the past. Unfortunately, the trimmed-down Black Mountain doesn't always deliver. "Let Spirits Ride" is pretty much a by-the- numbers Black Sabbath song. Save for the vocals from Amber Webber, who takes full advantage of her turns at the mike accompanying or trading lines with front- man Stephen McBean, "Rollercoaster" is a ride that slogs along without any interest- ing dips or turns. "Wilderness Heart" shows that Black Mountain doesn't always need expanded space for its sound to work. But it feels like the band is a little more comfortable when not holding back. _ Brandon Weigel, The Washington Post If you haven’t heard yet ... listen to: Demander’s ‘Future Brite’ album NYC-based band Demander is determined to glow in the dark The first sound on the album, released early this year, is feverish, spectral strumming from a single guitar. Gliding chords of some forgotten, noble anthem ascend and wheel, a spell to sum- mon something more massively bright: A whole carnival of sound awakens, spirits and light shuffling to life for the listener alone. Sneaky band that Demander, as this first track’s called “Song Seven.” Musically, the group has already made good on any implied promise of time travel. “I can’t always think about better days,” singer Karen Kanan Cor- rea confesses, as if confiding a burden to a friend she’s known for fully half a record. She hurries to insist in the next line: “It’s not that I don’t ...” Incandescent tomorrows have to be willed into being, and Demander’s happily willing to put in the work. The musicians’ music_and moniker_let us know they won’t settle for less, in any case; “Future Brite” clicks on innumerable luminous cylinders. It’s the group’s second full- length album, following 2007’s “The Unkind- ness of Ravens” and an eponymous 2005 EP. “It could be chemical,” Correa ponders on “Coulee,” an infectious cut that’s alluring on an elemental level. Her next line more ominously reveals: “Our blood is on the wall.” As DNA-invested as we are in the decor, Demander dares to linger for a thrilling round of musical reflection before cleaning up and clear- ing out. Correa’s voice finds fresh muscle as she repeats the title mantra; she shows an uncanny knack for locating the addictive refrain. Demander is most definitely a feisty metro- politan rock band; but that job description includes an embrace of the countrywide and the cosmopolitan_even the cosmic, when it comes to creating atmosphere. Throughout, the band displays an almost cinematic sense of the dramatic, frequently conveying urgency, occasionally toeing towards menace. Siren background vocals rise and waft like mist curling at the corners of Demander Island, darkly welcome harmonies that seek not so much to wreck as warn_or even renew, as on Track 9’s “Rising,” a legitimately heartening late-album gem. 14 O-Town Scene Nov. 11, 2010 the organic crunch of David Kurutz’s guitars (Jared P. Scott also weighs in on “Books” and “Coulee”); they wade out into Demander’s moonlit waters with the winning bravado one often needs to face the future. We never really know what it holds, after all. For instance, take “Math,” a song title calculated to supply a tedious session of pocket-protected drudgery. Lyrical possibilities to be dreaded include “It Could Be Decimal ...” Instead, Demander surprises its students with a carefree field trip to an island resort where easy-going guitars and wildly good-time drum wallops rule. And don’t take my word for it on the surfing bit: I instead refer you (with MTV-leery trepida- tion) to Intrepid Documentarian Andrew Jenks, who shrewdly used the song to evoke the surfing lifestyle on a recent episode of “World Of Jenks.” If we’re looking to lift school test scores, not to mention national moods, any crusty dean could do worse than to cue up “Math” before each and every pre-calculus class. Of course, side ef- fects include iridescent dreams of future summer vacations. Demander’s “Future Brite” is available at _ Sam Benedict All of this might amount only to a hill of Brite Beans if Demander wasn’t made up of such sharp musicians. It’s what allows the band’s “Back To The Future Brite” DeLorean to shift gears so masterfully, flashing from the delicate melody-and-musing of “DeGaulle” to the gal- vanizing stomp of a rocker like “Books” some tracks down the road. Drumming dynamo Sivan Harlap can keep a song exquisitely coiled_just about lashing it along its disciplined course_or kick up a joyful ruckus of expertly-beaten abandon. Correa’s bass-work sets down mighty inviting ground for

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