Hidden Peak Records
On Mountain Con’s third release, former Missoulian Jim Nugent sings on the album- closer “November and Everything After”: “I’m a new kind of man with an old kind of blues.” And how. Sancho Panza, the band’s third release, is a mash-up of live musicianship and sampling that prescribes to a contemporary sound (promotional types call it “hip-rock” and/or “hick-hop”) but is rooted in a retro soul.
A lot of the credit for that authenticity goes to Nugent’s lyrics and lead vocals. While the sound of Sancho Panza runs the spectrum from soulful rock (there’s some gorgeous slide and steel guitar) to breakbeat hip-hop, Nugent keeps things cohesive with his earnest pipes and intelligent writing. “The Silver Age” and “To Infinity,” along with the aforementioned ending track, are the best examples.
The only missteps on Sancho Panza are the songs that sound criminally Beck-ish. “The Escape Artist” and the album’s first single, “Apocalyptic,” stick out like Midnight Vultures rip-offs. It’s not the worst offense for a genre-bending outfit to mimic Beck—and to their credit they at least do it well—but it’s still a bit distracting when so egregiously evident.
Otherwise, Mountain Con’s quixotic mix is engaging, and Sancho Panza is an album that deserves to be kept at your side. (Skylar Browning)
Mountain Con plays The Bodega (yes, The Bodega), 221 Ryman St., Saturday, July 1, with doors opening at 8 PM. $5.
Nice & Neat Records
Birthday Suits gush forth such a mountain of sound you’d think they were a whole gang of musicians. But in fact the band is just guitarist Hideo Takahashi and drummer Yuichiro Matthew Kazama—two remnants of the now-defunct quintet Sweet J.A.P.—and it sounds as if two’s all they need.
The duo’s debut album dispenses hopped-up garage rock with just a hint of that experimental/noise sound popular in the Tokyo rock scene. (Both musicians grew up there before settling in Minneapolis.) But unlike much of the Japanese prog-rock invasion, Cherry Blue revels in bright guitar chords and poppy hooks that flood every bit of available audio space, all backed by relentless drumming mayhem. Takahashi’s voice has an uncanny resemblance to the quirky vocals of the B-52s’ Fred Schneider, especially in the churning rock track “Twin City Bridge is Falling Down” and the untamed “Slowly Motion.” The final track, however, “We Ain’t Loser Dogs,” with its cool, stuttering vocals and cyclone riffs, best captures the essence of Cherry Blue. (Erika Fredrickson)
Birthday Suits play The Raven Cafe Wednesday, July 5, at 9 PM. Victory Smokes open. Cover TBA.
Trampled by Turtles
Live at Lucé
The songs on Live at Lucé cover topics like drug addiction, death and lost love. But listening to the third release from these bluegrass dervishes from Duluth, Minn., you’d never recognize the dark content, what with the blazing energy and fever-pitch melodic peppiness the band brings to the stage.
Close instrumental harmonies carried by a banjo, bass, fiddle and Erik Berry’s madcap mandolin translate easily from live show to live album, and Dave Simonett has a twangy, seen-it-all voice made to sing lines like “Codeine, codeine/You’re the nicest thing I’ve seen/For a while.” (He also does a mean Dylan impression in a cover of “Outlaw Blues”— emphasis on the runaway outlaw zeal, not the blues.)
The album is at its most enjoyable when the tightly tuned instrumentals let loose, as they do during the furious “Dyin’” and against the whoop-and-holler accompaniment at the end of “The Outskirts.”
Live at Lucé is bluegrass at its imperfect best. Lonesomeness never sounded like so much fun, and if death is accompanied by an electric mandolin, I’m a little less scared. (Alyssa Work)
Trampled by Turtles plays The Loft Thursday, June 29, at 8 PM. $5.
Thiago de Mello and Dexter Payne
It’s easy to take an institution like the Big Sky Mudflaps for granted, considering their 30-year Missoula reign. They’re a good band, but it’s difficult to mentally extract them from the context of local events, which is why it’s so thrilling to hear BSM founder Dexter Payne play with prominent Brazilian composer Thiago de Mello. Another Feeling is an exotic mixture of samba and Brazilian jazz—a little overripe on the smooth saxophone solos but full of fascinating instrumentals effectuated by de Mello’s organic percussion played with seeds, bamboo and clay.
“Rede de Cabocio” is sophisticated lounge music threaded with the melancholic breeze of Payne’s clarinet. But it isn’t until “Tal Como o Vinho” and “A Hug for Gil Evans” that the bossa nova/samba groove begins percolating beneath the revolving cast of Brazilian and American pianists.
Knowing the history of the songs is part and parcel to enjoying the album, especially because the songs, when they aren’t purely instrumental, are sung in Portuguese. For instance, “The Exile Song” is about de Mello’s brother, an exiled Brazilian poet of the 1960s, and the title track is a tribute to Che Guevara.
Through its subtle politics and skilled musicianship, Another Feeling captures a cross-cultural collaboration worth experiencing. (Erika Fredrickson)
Dexter Payne plays a CD-release party for Another Feeling Friday, June 30, at 9 PM in Hamilton’s River Street Theater. $5.