Whether dabbling in experimental noise or stirring a cauldron of electronica pop songs, Video Hippos sound otherworldly. Kool Shades, the latest self-released “demo” by Baltimore, Md.-based duo Kevin O’Meara and Jim Triplett, is marinated in upbeat dance rhythms and seasoned with swaths of feedback, making it an album both friendly and discordant, wistful and robotic.
The title track and subsequent songs like “Neo York” evoke casual eeriness with whistling and melodies that seem something like a lonely Sunday bus ride to some rain-soaked and secluded beach. “Why Can’t I Hear a Thing” is a startling—almost unpalatable—dive into chaotic noise beats, repetitive chanting and a jarring symphony of cymbals. Far more aurally endearing is “Trashed,” which pounds and gallops like actual hippos shaking it down at a dance party. Just as charming is the more melancholy and desperate “Downfall,” which feels like a slightly subdued Japanther song.
During live shows, Video Hippos project personal and pop-culture video onto the screen behind them. Though the eye candy is a welcome addition to the music, Video Hippo’s music itself induces enough imaginative ambiance to take or leave the visual aids. (Erika Fredrickson
Video Hippos play Dauphine’s Cafe Saturday, March 24, at 8 PM with Magnolia Electric Co., Good Neighbor Policy, Cabinet of Natural Curiosities, Dan Deacon and Blood Baby. $10/$8 in advance at Ear Candy Music.
Although 8traC’s scattered debut lacks musical identity, the quintet at least has a legitimate excuse for the myriad genres found on Falling Up
: they hail from Boulder, Colo., a locale that has produced its share of genre-bending bands.
8TraC’s effort to ply all trades, however, has left them master of none. Falling Up
drifts between off-course jazz and stagnant funk, Jah-less reggae and hobbled hip-hop, never really harnessing the ensemble’s evident musical talent to a coherent purpose. “All I Know” features vocalist Chantel Mead exhibiting the raw emotive talent of a Motown revue while her supporting musicians wander, leaving her wistfully floating. The appropriately-titled “This N’ That” has the confusing swagger of a disco-laden chorus stuck between verses that recall the potency of the JB Horns. Unfortunately, this muddled fusion buries Mead’s vocal brilliance, an unintentional motif of Falling Up
. 8traC’s centerpiece ought to be Mead belting not wafting over groove-heavy hits as on “Let’s Do It,” which effectively channels Chic and Jamiroquai while emphasizing the vocal oomph of 8TraC’s dynamic lead.
8TraC’s wide-open sonic palette offers so many options that Falling Up
’s canvass is overcrowded and, consequently, unaffecting. (Jonathan Stumpf
8TraC plays The Loft Wednesday, March 28 at 10 PM. $5.
The Great Depression
The Great Depression
Cincinnati’s The Great Depression must worry their mothers a lot. Armed only with acoustic guitars, Jeremy Pinnell and Tim Carr pound out gritty first-hand accounts of drug addiction and ruptured relationships. The songs here are honest and sad—not in the way of Morrissey’s melancholy, but more like Neil Young’s rockin’ artistic angst.
In “Belly of the Beast,” songwriter Pinnell sings about being high: “I lie in bed ‘cause I’m so high / I’ll call your mama / and tell her that I’m doing bad / and I can’t see to tomorrow.” This song and others like it aren’t anthems to drug use, nor are they set up as cautionary tales–they’re just forthright accounts of Pinnell’s own personal struggles and frank revelations of the vulnerability beneath his rough exterior.
While The Great Depression’s instrumentation may be stripped down, their vocal delivery is all rock ’n’ roll. Before forming this group, Pinnell was the forceful frontman of the indie band The Light Wires. Carr contributed backing vocals in Pinnell’s band and on this release he plays Garfunkel to Pinnell’s Simon, matching every vocal quaver. The result, reminiscent of Sea Change
-era Beck, is a compelling debut suffused with underlying tenderness. (Caroline Keys
Antibalas’ instrumentation emphasizes its two saxophones, two trumpets, trombone, electrical synthesizer and conga drums over comparatively sparse vocals and guitars. It comes across more like an orchestra than a musical troupe that started performing in Manhattan pubs. But regardless of its origins, Antibalas (which means “bulletproof” in Spanish) has emerged as a manic 21st-century neo-symphony of horns, beats, rhythm and culture.
All seven tracks of their new album find a place for Antibalas’ 12 members and their instruments, which can’t be easy. For a band with a serious potential for musical traffic jams, they never lose control of a fluid sound that can go anywhere at anytime.
Grassroots fans of the band would say you haven’t really heard Antibalas until you’ve seen them live, which would be nice if they ever ventured to the Northwest. Until then, listeners will have to settle for Security
and its five previous albums. That’s not really so bad, unless you’re my next-door neighbor trying to sleep. (Dillon Tabish