New Music From Local Bands
A couple of CD release shows this weekend and one more next weekend, as we look at new albums by Let's French, No Second Troy and Bellman Barker.
Let's French - "Victory"
Release Show: Saturday, May 19, Black Cat
Let's French is part of the seemingly ever-expanding Federal Reserve collective, but while most of the local quartet's cohorts in the collective play folky Americana, Let's French does nothing of the sort. On "Victory" the band delivers 10 songs of snappy, confident, blog-ready indie rock. I go back and forth between thinking lead singer Randy Chugh sounds like Brandon Flowers (the Killers), Conor Oberst (Bright Eyes) or Paul Banks (Interpol), so I suppose in the end he just sounds like Randy Chugh, with a dramatic, deep voice that he uses to his advantage. It's not so much what he says as how he says it, frequently stretching out his words to lend everything an air of importance. There's a feeling of immediacy that runs through most of these songs, in everything from the vocals to animated arrangements. Cascading backing vocals, aggressive guitars and keyboard flourishes are the norm, and most songs tidily wrap up within three and a half minutes or so. "Your Name Here" and "Boys and Girls" get the album off to a very fast start that can't quite be matched, but by keeping the set tight the band never wears out its welcome.
No Second Troy - "Narcotic"
Release Show: Saturday, May 19, Iota
No Second Troy is a good example of how success in the music business is often just a matter of luck. Why does a band like Augustana, with its wistful, piano-driven rock get signed to Epic and score opening slots on tours for the Fray, Snow Patrol and O.A.R. instead of a band like No Second Troy? There's probably an answer, but it likely doesn't have too much to do with music. The Fray and Snow Patrol are obvious reference points, but the songs on "Narcotic" are as ready for primetime as you'll ever hear. The local quintet has the formula for soaring, nostalgic ballads down to a science, though it really does feel scientific at times. A quiet, yearning verse slowly builds to a booming, hopeful chorus; pianos and chiming guitars intermingle seamlessly; lines like "If you would stay / I would float right out this window / It means everything whether my world is up or down" are crooned with confidence; everything on "Narcotic" sounds as smooth as can be. There's nothing stopping No Second Troy from having a mainstream breakthrough except for the fact that there are probably a dozen or so bands in most cities across the country about whom you could say the same thing.
Bellman Barker - "Anise & Anisette"
Release Show: Saturday, May 26, Rock and Roll Hotel
Bellman Barker's debut EP, "Anise & Anisette" does a nice job of splitting the difference between the two above releases. It contains some of the same punchy qualities as Let's French, but there's certainly an anthemic streak running through most of the six songs here. Bellman Barker's attempts at grandeur are more understated than those of No Second Troy, but the local quartet ups the ante when it comes to unabashedly romantic sentiment. The obvious highlight is "Molly Maroon," a very Belle & Sebastian-esque twee-pop shuffle, complete with affected vocals. The hand claps and backing chorus in the song's final minute work perfectly and push the tune from cute to nearly irresistible. Nothing else reaches those heights and things can get a bit too precious at times, but everything is delivered in a heartfelt enough fashion that it doesn't sound like a put on.
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