Time for another six pack of killer tunes with August’s edition of Chris’ Pick Six. With each monthly installment we try to give you a selection of records that offer up songs that are worth your time to listen to. You never know who may show up on the Pick Six so be sure to check back for each installment. You don’t want to miss out on good music do you? So here you go, August’s Chris’ Pick Six.
Mammabear – The Strange Love EP
When you listen to the music of MammaBear you can’t help but laugh at all the people proudly declaring the death of rock-n-roll. The Atlanta band wraps thick fuzzy guitar riffs around a hint of pop melodies that just beg to be played loud and often. After a brilliant debut record – Vol. 1 Birds of Paradise – the band has unleashed the Strange Love EP that showcases why the band is so damn good. The opening track “Kick Me” is straight out of the Paul Westerburg songbook with jangly guitars booming rhythms that provide the soundscape for Kyle Gordon’s bittersweet lyrics. The guitar solo kicks ass and when the tune fades out you will be hooked. The second tune “Strange Love” is less pop and a bit more psychedelic as guitars echo through your ears drawing you into the bands musical world. Gordon’s vocals are the cherry on top as he sings about a fractured relationship. The only downside is the EP is just two songs so when it fades out you definitely want more but then that is not a bad thing. Go check out MammaBear you will thank me.
The Mountain Goats – Beat the Champ
With each album the Mountain Goats (John Darnielle) continue to deliver multi layered songs that delve deep into the human psyche. Many times Darnielle uses his own experiences or creates characters that face trials of life we are all familiar with. Death, love and despair spend a lot of time intertwined in his words and the Mountain Goats’ latest record – Beat the Champ – is no different. Darnielle takes listeners back to his childhood where wrestling was his escape from everyday life. The songs on Beat the Champ not only capture the excitement of the larger than life heroes in the ring (“The Legend of Chavo Guerrero”) but the depressing life of being on the road (“Southwestern Territory”) and the physical grind wrestlers put themselves through for a bit of fame (“Choked Out”). Darnielle’s wrestling world is much different than the glitz and glamour of today. Wrestlers lived a lonely existence on the road while being over worked and under paid for something they love. While each track on the album examines some aspect of wrestling you need to look past the obvious to hear what Darnielle is singing. Sadness oozes from these songs as many of them go to a dark place where death is common place. Beat the Champ is a record that takes time to ingest but once you take it all in it hits you hard.
Bunnygrunt – Vol. 4
Veteran St. Louis rockers Bunnygrunt have returned with a new record, Vol. 4. The longtime indie darlings continue to deliver music that successfully merges punk flavors with a raw garage rock vibe wrapped in simple pop melodies. The music on Vol. 4 demonstrates that simplicity can breed brilliant music. In your face guitar riffs and vicious percussion set the stage for Matt Harnish’s and Karen Ried’s to ride upon. As songs such as “Chunt Bump” and “Open My Eyes” invade listener’s ear holes they get the full experience of the differences & similarities from both of their vocal styles. The further you get into Vol. 4 the better the record gets. Songs like the chunky “Old Abe Lincoln” and the poppy “1000 Percent Not Creepy” showcase how diverse Bunnygrunt’s sound can be. Through the years the band has mainly stuck to the same formula where the music is concerned, maybe tweaking a thing here or there to keep things from sounding repetitive. Vol. 4 is a great example of the saying, “if it ain’t broke don’t fix it”.
Slow Parade – Big Plans
The music scene in Georgia these days is experiencing a renascence with a wide variety of good music to choose from and the band Slow Parade is right in the middle of it all with their album Big Plans. Slow Parade has constructed an album built on a foundation of soulful rhythms fortified with pop infused melodies and lead singer Matthew Pendrick’s captivating vocals. Their music effortlessly blends layer upon layer of sonic goodness held together with psychedelic undertones. Giving a new meaning to the phrase “Southern Rock” the songs from Big Plans can fit easily with the soulfulness of the Allmans or the raw post punk sounds of early REM. From start to finish each song gives listeners something different to digest as they complement each other creating a piece of music that demands to be listened to as a whole. From the brooding “Stink I’m In” to the jangly “Spike Driver’s Blues” to the smooth “Lost and Found” Slow Parade exhibits their abilities to switch gears without sounding out of sorts. With each listen Big Plans uncovers something different from the previous listen keeping the songs from become old or stale. It is new music like this that keeps listeners coming back for more.
Noon:30 – Finding Release
Upon the initial listen the latest release from Washington DC’s Noon:30 – Finding Release – was hard to swallow, but the more times you subject yourself to their controlled chaos the more you will like it. Finding Release is a mixture of four new songs along with a few alternate versions of said songs. While the EP may be scant what Blue and Aissa pack within the confines of the EP is quite powerful. Listeners are welcomed into the EP with “Dream”, a sparse melodic number built around Blue’s haunting vocals and a lush soundscape. With the pleasantries out of the way Noon:30 unleashes an anger that boils deep from within. A 43 second acapella track titled “Interlude” warns folks to back off before they launch into “Rodeo”. A reworking of Salt n Pepa’s “Push It”, it is a big “FU” to those that question the duo’s musical skills and/or drive. There is a remix of this track by Athens, GA band Tunabunny that is just as good as the original. The final song, “Gun” – which has 2 remixes – pits violent musical layers against Blue’s soulful vocals. Issuing a warning against all that challenge them Noon:30 puts fear in its detractors. Finding Release is a release in itself. As Noon:30 works out some anger issues listeners can embrace the record to deal with some of their own issues.
Static Daydream – Static Daydream
The brainchild of Paul Baker and Jamie Casey Static Daydream believes in pushing the boundaries of music and on their self-titled debut record they do just that. From the opening guitar riffs listeners are led through a musical environment that walks a thin line between chaotic noise and orchestrated beauty. Raw fuzzy guitar riffs drone on throughout the entirety of the record countered by strategically placed noise attacking the senses and many times catching the listeners off guard. Unexpected pop presence weaves its way through the noise pulling everything together. What makes the record is the balance between the noisy sound scape and the placated vocals. Once the singing starts listeners will become mesmerized by the duo’s voices allowing the music to seem not so abrasive. Static Daydream is a record that is much better than you would envision. It may not be for everybody but if you give it a chance, open your mind and let the plethora of sounds tickle your brain you will understand it is more than just a bunch of noise.