Posts Tagged ‘Alt-Country’

A.M. Son

There’s been a glut of power pop with an emphasis on the power half of the equation, but lately it seems that a few artists are starting to find the sweet spot between country ramble, Rundgrenesque ’70s AM sheen and the kind of power pop that befit The Flaming Groovies in their later Beatles obsession. Throw in an affinity for Muswell-era Kinks and Adam Paulson’s debut as A.M. Son checks all the boxes. Floating in on a sweet breeze of strums, twang, fiddle, and thick ’70s organ licks, this stands as a solid outlier in 2017’s indie field. The timbre of Paulson’s straw-scratched croon made me at once think that somehow Nobunny’s Justin Champlin had gone softly into the arms of country pop. And while Paulson doesn’t hold over in that circle, he’s not without his own garage and indie roots.

Paulson’s last stint saw him co-leading the short-lived but always intriguing Rainbow Gun Show, who had a few tracks out on HoZac. He’s also a touring member of Mild High Club, and though their psych-soul doesn’t really bleed in here, he does pick up psych in the form of a nod or two to the Elephant 6’s lush, strum-heavy variety (“You’ve Got Me”.) The record’s brief nine tracks are solid and endearing pop from start to finish, putting him squarely on the radar alongside some up and comers like New Rose or L.A.’s Mikah Wilson, who’s finding his way to similarly breezy territory. A pitch perfect offering from Throne Age, who, themselves are building up a nice little reputation as a label as well.




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Premiere: New Rose – “Going North”

New Rose captured the spirit of comedown country on their recent album, Morning Haze, for Brooklyn label Broken Circles. Steeped in the kind of spectral light that peeks over the mountains, threading through the marine layer gauze of daybreak, no song sums up their album’s title better than “Going North.” Paired with an equally ephemeral video courtesy of Rat Columns’ David West, the band penetrates a musical purgatory that hangs thick with fog. It’s inviting, enveloping and comforting like the smell of old bar wood and whiskey. You can practically inhale the dankness of the room in this clip and the band wears the ghost town vibes well. If you haven’t already locked onto Morning Haze yet, then its about time to check it out. The band will also be taking the Haze on the road for some tour dates. Check those after the jump.

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New Rose

Brooklyn’s New Rose sprang out of a history flirting with country-bent punk to embrace County (without the alt) proper on their LP for Broken Circles. Morning Haze paints portraits of bittersweet nuance that take quite a few lessons from the Gram Parsons / Guy Clark school. Aided in no small part by the veteran steel work of JayDee Maness (The Byrds, International Submarine Band, Eric Clapton) Daniel Wagner’s songs are steeped in the same heart-sunk delivery that drove “Brass Buttons” and “Streets of Baltimore”. It’s hangdog country that belies their city roots, the kind that screams “get these bright lights out of my eyes,” and feels much more comfortable in the back corner of the bar, channeling the beer-soak off of the bar rags.

To add another asset in the corner, the band hooked up with Rusty Santos to produce, and despite his indie rock heart, Santos slips on a pair of boots comfortably for the record. Fleshing out the sound with the aforementioned steel guitar secret weapon, among other hallmarks of twang, Morning Haze emulates its ’70s predecessors with a keen eye for detail. Wagner knows the marks he’s trying to hit, but more than just looking to divine the the aesthetics, he hits the tone and that makes all the difference. Flinging that heart on his sleeve, finding the sigh that heaves heavy at the heart of the best country, Wagner and New Rose are a nailing the fragile line between heartbreak and healing.


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Earth Girl Helen Brown – “Earth Elevator”

An excellent bout of cosmic country from the always mercurial Earth Girl Helen Brown. The album this time around features quite a few familiar names – Emmett Kelley, Sonny Smith, Ty Segall, John Dwyer, Tim Cohen, and more. Simple and straightforward, “Earth Elevator” is a bittersweet romp with vocals of Heidi Alexander ringing sweet and low in your ears, a bit of twang and the barroom shuffle of drums her only companion. Better yet, proceeds from this and Alexander’s forthcoming seasonal installments will all benefit organizations of worth (this one goes towards 350.org, NDRC, Stand-LA). An all around charming start to the week to be sure.



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The Total Bettys

San Francisco’s Total Betty’s are a country-tinged rock band masquerading in the skin of a garage-pop combo. Though they’ve picked up ranks at the always lovely Lauren Records, they’re skewing more grown up than many of their roster-mates and even their own name checked influences (Bully or Charly Bliss). In actuality the band lands closer to the catalog of Rilo Kiley, finding solace in Jenny Lewis’ wink laden pop docket, before she truly embraced her wandering country soul. The Total Bettys dig into the faded comfort and driving heart of Rilo’s indie past. More so, singer Maggie Grabmeier has a knack for hooking her thumbs into self-deprecation delivered with a touch of honey that can’t help but dredge up comparisons to Lewis.

Repeated listens open this up, not into the jangled garage nugget that it’s perhaps intended to be, but as a bittersweet summer road trip companion that pines for loves imagined and lost. Grabmeier acts as wing-woman and shoulder to lean on, delivering lyrics with a wry humor that’s handily packed into hooks that aren’t outsized, but rather sneakily subtle and seeping into your consciousness through the slight crackle of production that comes on like AM static. As a debut this feels like its just a peek at what Grabmeier and the band have at their disposal. With a larger scale production they could completely shake that garage tag (not that there’s anything wrong with it) and reach for lush hills that give her songwriting a bit more gravitas and still keep feet moving. Certainly a band to keep an eye on as the years click by, but this is lovely on its own merits.




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The Tyde – “It’s Not Gossip If It’s True”

So I mentioned the other day that, yes indeed, The Tyde have resurfaced after years off the grid. On his fourth album, Darren 4, Darren Rademaker is sounding like he’s recaptured the spirit that inhabited the sunny strains of Once and Twice, summoning up the ghosts of The Byrds, The softer side of Creation (The Sneetches, Suede, Felt) and the summer sun that beamed from within The Beach Boys. He’s also adding his dose of wearied and weathered vibes, as if the sun only leads to sunstroke and a hangover that puts the good times in bas relief. Lyrics about trysts with twenty-two year-olds aside, the album has a wonderful feel to it and “Gossip” is a highlight for me. Its practically swooning with the addition of some honeyed background vocals and a touch of slide guitar. Rademaker captures the song’s hassled sighs amiably in the Alex Knost directed clip. Its nice to have The Tyde back and summing up middle age in weathered psych-country comfort.

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Natural Child

There’s plenty of mining the classic rock quary’s these days. Everyone with enough bandwidth and time can adopt an expertise in most bands’ catalogs in a matter of days, but it takes a true love of form to really shine. For the past several years Natural Child have found their personal nexus in a mix of country strung rock and ’70s smooth players. Think the crossroads of The Dead, The Allman’s and JJ Cale and you’re getting into the right territory, pop some Byrds in their Graham Parsons phase into the mix, but subtract a touch of twang and you’re getting there. They explode out of that box though with their own additions of psych melt and some real groove-ridin’ swagger that feels wholly their own. They’ve come far with Okey Dokey, and despite what might be one of their worst cover images to date (this is in light of the fact that they have an album that’s simply an ass by the way) this stands as their most mature and serious feeling album to date.

The band always mixed the smooth delivery with a bit of winky humor, calling to mind late ’90s stalwarts The Tyde (who are back this year, hey Tyde) but now they seem to stow a few of the winks for a dichotomy that blends their tequila sunrise sounds with lyrics that feel paranoid, anxious and well, okay still a little flecked with levity to be honest, but that levity seems to be masking their unease. Its as if they’ve written music to act as the salve to their own jitters – a salve built on the soothing sounds of lightly marbled guitar and a shuffle of drum n’ groove. They do stray from their smoothe palette from time to time. On the title track and “It’s A Shame My Store Isn’t Open” the psychedelics seem to get the better of them and that “ease on down the road feeling” goes a bit sour, with the paranoia winning out handily. For the most part though, Natural Child will help you get through with a cracked smile and a drink in hand. They know that life’s blues are bearable, but not always wearable.

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