Old Books EP
(Park the Van)
Anyone still feeling spurned by the Peekers' sudden breakup in September 2009, here's your rebound. Giant Cloud's Park the Van debut is winning in its own right, but fans of both bands will be hard-pressed not to hear similarities between the Ruston-cum-New Orleans quintet and its late Shreveportian labelmates. Husband-and-wife singers Ben and Julie Jones harmonize in the same slurring, dewy motions as Peekers spouses John Martin and Brittney Maddox, and their climbing Abbey Road chord changes and Russian roulette with tempos — particularly on the track "Strange Peaches," which swings between sweeping guitar weeps and a big-band jitterbug jig — never gets old. But it's the consistency of Old Books that sets it apart from the Peekers' April one-off, Life in the Air. Like many actual artifacts from the 1960s and '70s, these five tracks play out more like movements in a rollicking psych/rock sonata. Opener "Rainbows" is all moody melody: guitar octaves and angelic vocals raining down on shimmering cymbals for six dramatic minutes. It segues into "Fingernails," and some of the gauzy Memphis keyboard soul that blessed Cat Power's The Greatest, before switching gears between the Joneses' guy/girl crooning and a righteously chugging riff. The closer is called "Old Soul," but it's actually a waltz-time romp under a big top starring a Spanish trumpet, more "woah-oh"s and two bits of fitting homage: Dr. Dog's stuttering "ah-ah-ah" vocal breaks and beautiful, druggy arpeggios borrowed from Baltimore's heavy-lidded Beach House. "Let go of your old thoughts/ We've got some new thoughts," the lovers sing. It's a persuasive argument.
Metronome the City
Object To Be Destroyed
Inscrutable? It's a fair criticism of Metronome the City's music, which in the past often seemed to posit a hundred conflicting ideas at once in the absence of a single prevailing one. Since "accessible" isn't exactly a compliment and "scrutable" doesn't make sense, let's just say that Object to Be Destroyed, the band's second LP in 12 years, succeeds on multiple levels. On one is the same out-there, decibel-pushing experimenting that pairs so well with the group's live audiovisual displays: piecemeal structures and jumbled genres, instrument evisceration and time signature obliteration. But stereo listeners need to have something to hold onto, and Object gives it to them in spades. Nearly every track on the album packs more hooks than the entirety of 2006's self-titled debut. Some are downright poppy: "Snow Job" and "Metronomics," two ambient guitar meditations that float six-string interplay atop throbbing post-punk bass lines, are the catchiest things the band's ever done. Others, like "Surfdubssludge" and "A8," are so packed with bizarre effects — robotic beats, ray-gun chromatic scales, ska scratches, dub decay, vocals — they can't help but hold your attention. Metronome saves its best trick for last: The finale, a 15-minute opus dubbed "Thunderhead," moves like a circling storm, interspersing nine minutes of ominous builds with six minutes of intermittent lightning bolts.
Easy Classics EP
For a city with so many talented musicians, great rock singers may be our scarcest resource, so it's refreshing to hear Micah McKee continue his ascent from barely-there folk whisperer to one of the best rock 'n' roll frontmen in New Orleans. This unofficial release, Silent Cinema's second in the past year, is the finest collection of songs McKee has written: tight yet loose, forceful yet unforced. "Sweet Mona Lee" may be the highpoint, a music-box confection with hot blasts of trombone air breaking up its twinkling atmosphere, but there are no low ones. Opener "Love-Fest" is a count-it-off, alt-country anthem underpinned by a jangling acoustic and buoyed by a kite-flying brass line; "Three-Legged Dog" takes those components and adds a Kinks-like three-chord staircase and a Grizzly Bear backing chorus; and "Sleepy Time on Bourbon" aims for the radio with a busy instrumental arrangement and a huge pop hook. Non sequiturs don't get any more nonsensical than "Blackberry pie/corner of my eye," but it sure sounds sweet when McKee sings it.