New Music From Local Bands
Two of D.C.'s most hyped bands -- Georgie James and Le Loup -- are featured in this latest look at the local music scene, but a below-the-radar debut by singer-songwriter John Bustine proves very worthwhile as well.
Georgie James - "Places"
It's hard to believe that the debut from Georgie James is just now seeing the light of day, considering that they've been the toast of the town for the past year and a half. (And yes, we contributed to that, as we devoted a whole podcast to the band before they had even played a show.) "Places" proves that the hype was deserved, at least to a certain extent. In the weird world of the Internet, there's rarely anything that isn't either the greatest or the worst thing ever. "Places" is unquestionably far closer to the former than the latter, but it's unlikely to set the world on fire. But you know what? Not every record needs to do that. With just a couple of exceptions, each of the dozen songs written and performed by John Davis and Laura Burhenn hits the mark, nailing that perfect pop sweet spot - plenty catchy, not too saccharine and rocking just enough.
The sound of "Places" is rooted in the post-psychedelic, pre-punk era of pop music, but nothing here feels shamelessly retro. Pristine harmonies and memorable melodies are plentiful, and with Davis and Burhenn trading off lead vocal duties the album stays fresh throughout. Pretty much every other song is a highlight. "More Lights" is a bouncy delight, with Davis and Burhenn trading off verses and joining forces for the irresistible chorus. "Cheap Champagne" shows that Davis didn't forget how to play the skittery backbeat that drove many Q and Not U songs, but Burhenn's powerful vocals drive the song. "Need Your Needs" is a sunny slice of almost-disco pop. And so on. This is fun, catchy music with no pretense and it's hard to imagine anyone listening to "Places" without some toe-tapping.
Le Loup - "The Throne of the Third Heaven of the Nations' Millennium General Assembly"
Unlike Georgie James, D.C.'s other New Hot Band really snuck up on just about everyone. Say the name "Le Loup" a year ago and you'd be greeted by blank stares. (And you'd probably be pronouncing it wrong, too. The "p" is silent; it is French, after all.) Now the local septet has a record out on an upstart label (Sub Pop offshoot Hardly Art) and is one of the most buzzed about bands in town and on blogs across the country. Listening to "The Throne" it's easy to hear why that's the case. The subdued, orchestral indie sound - with plenty of banjo to boot - is an amalgamation of everything that's big in the indie rock world these days - a little Sufjan Stevens, a little Animal Collective, a little (insert Canadian band with at least 9 members).
By combining all of those sounds, Le Loup ends up with a sound of its own. I can't describe it any better than the way Patrick Foster did in his review of the album in the paper a few weeks ago when he called it "the 'Anthology of American Folk Music' meets OMD during an existential crisis." There are definite themes of mortality throughout the album. "This could be the end of the world," head Le Louper Sam Simkoff sings on "Outside of This Car, the End of the World!" while he asks "Have you ever known your maker?" on "We Are Gods! We Are Wolves!" It doesn't make things depressing, just introspective. Simkoff's voice rarely rises above a tender coo; it's simply another element in the tapestry of sounds. Whereas Georgie James immediately grabs you with big hooks, Le Loup gently tugs at you and slowly draws you into its world, which manages to feel both relaxing and claustrophobic at the same time. Sometimes you wish they'd get to the point a little sooner, but then you realize that the indirectness is the point.
John Bustine - "Waltzes & Pleas"
Gypsy Eyes Records has established itself as the go-to local label for best in twangy songs dealing with heartbreak and longing, and it has a new best album in its catalogue with the release of John Bustine's "Waltzes and Pleas." The local singer-songwriter does the basic singer-songwriter thing, but does it extremely well. The arrangements are simple, mostly based around Bustine's acoustic guitar and weary voice. This makes full-band rockers like "This Guitar Says I'm Drunk" and "Graceless Birds of Death" all the more effective. Bustine's lyrics can be especially bitter and self-loathing, sometimes even bordering on cartoonish. He manages to pull it off, though, and it beats the same old wistful laments this type of music usually offers.
When the full band kicks in, there's no holding back. The guitars are thick and distorted, the drums are forceful. It doesn't sound like a folk band trying to play loud, it simply sounds like a rock band. And that might be the secret to the success of "Waltzes and Pleas." Singer-songwriter albums are usually predictable affairs, but Bustine keeps you on your toes here. A particular standout is "Jesus, Jesus Not Again" a duet with Rose that features the type of depressing/humorous lyrics that can be found throughout the album. "You'll be the death of me / Unless I kill you first / Is there anyway this could go any worse? / We haven't hit the second verse" they sing in unison early on before the song closes with Bustine asking "Did I blow it?" "Baby you know it," she responds. Maybe he did in that story, but certainly not on this impressive debut.
Posted by: My Friends Rock | September 27, 2007 7:29 AM | Report abuse
Posted by: Eddie Crowe & The Blues Unchained | September 27, 2007 12:38 PM | Report abuse
Posted by: Scott | September 28, 2007 12:24 PM | Report abuse
Posted by: Scott | September 28, 2007 12:26 PM | Report abuse
Posted by: BLUES UNCHAINED | October 6, 2007 7:33 AM | Report abuse
Posted by: BLUES UNCHAINED | October 6, 2007 7:34 AM | Report abuse
The comments to this entry are closed.