In this week's Notes from Left of the Dial, I take a look at some songs and videos from Feral Conservatives, The Blank Tapes, David Strange, Lady Lamb the Beekeeper, and The Tulips. From fuzzed-out mandolin rock to stout indie rock rhythms, the songs this week will provide an unusually fitting soundtrack to your postholiday cool down. What have you been listening to lately?
Feral Conservatives, "Class Reunion"
Virginia-based indie rock duo Feral Conservatives are gearing up for the release of their new record, "The Feeling Noise Becomes," Feb. 10 via EggHunt Records. Their dedication to '90s post-rock textures is evident all over the music. From singer Rashie Rosenfarb's distinct voice and her Big Muff-infused mandolin to multi-instrumentalist Matt Francis' clever arrangements, the music of Feral Conservatives feels set apart from any sort of storied musical lineage; it feels separate and insular but not without the occasional bit of melodic inclusivity.
The band's recent single, "Class Reunion," opens with a giggle from Rosenfarb, and this sense of playful creativity is sustained across the entire song. It's noisy and thick but held aloft through the force of her voice and the thudding background noise of Francis. It's curious to hear how a mandolin might be substituted for an electric guitar, and it works perfectly here, giving the song a much-needed boost of speed and determination. But it's not all distortion and movement; the song bases these sounds around a spiraling melody that Rosenfarb employs to great effect. Drawing inspiration from bands like Husker Du and Sonic Youth, the duo pays homage to their influences without becoming bogged down in rote imitation.
The Blank Tapes, "Way Too Stoned"
California rock outfit The Blank Tapes is actually the work of one man, Matt Adams, and through a kaleidoscopic outlook on pop and rock music—and no particular allegiance to any one decade—he has released numerous records and toured all over the country, bringing his stoned-out pop/rock songs to anyone within shouting distance. Equal parts "Nuggets"-esque garage rock and psych-filled fuzz freak out, his music is an amalgam of genres, all jumbled together in a mash of sound and herb-influenced haze.
Adams has given us a taste of what to expect from his upcoming record, "Geodesic Dome Piece," with recent single "Way Too Stoned," a song that touts the positives and negatives of being a bit too reliant on illicit pharmaceuticals. Infused with a carefree rock 'n' roll attitude, the track rolls along on a series of jubilant garage rock rhythms and fuzzy melodies that contribute to the song's overall sense of gauzy awareness. "Way Too Stoned" rises above its jokey superficiality and becomes something of a garage rock wonder.
David Strange, "Vitamin Pills"
New York weirdo pop purveyor David Strange was formerly a session musician and guitarist for Courtney Love, but a chance encounter with musician Charlotte Kemp Muhl from The Ghost of a Saber Tooth Tiger changed all that. He showed some of his unreleased songs to her, and she asked if she could produce some of them. This collaboration—with him singing and performing a handful of instruments and her singing backup and drumming—led to the creation of his upcoming self-titled EP, which is set for a Jan. 20 release.
For the video to recent single "Vitamin Pills," Strange and Muhl look to concoct a series of otherworldly images that pair nicely with the abstract pop rhythms that Strange favors so well. Following the adventures of a kangaroo-man and his dog and flamingo companions, the video is bizarre, psychedelic and has a supernatural circus feel to it. It's a difficult song to pin down; from its blurry psychotropic filters to the strange pop sheen that covers everything, the song seems to exist in a separate reality from our own.
Lady Lamb the Beekeeper, "Billions of Eyes"
Maine singer-songwriter Aly Spaltro (AKA Lady Lamb the Beekeeper) knows how to sling words around. On her 2013 debut, "Ripley Pine," she dug into the seedy underbelly of the world around her, only to find that it was just as ugly as she thought it would be. But it was the way in which she clung to specific lyrical ideologies that made the record so enduring and frankly captivating, and kept it from wallowing in overly maudlin imagery. She's back now with a new record, "After," which is due out March 3 via Mom + Pop Records.
Lead single "Billions of Eyes" acts as a mission statement of sorts, with Spaltro dialing back the grisly minutiae of her past work in an attempt to let inconsequential, everyday acts become moments of deep meaning. There are jangly guitar riffs and singalong "da-da-da-da" choruses aplenty, but she's not completely satisfied with what she sees, so there is a darker tint here than might be initially noticed. And it's in this duality of the internal and external influences on our lives that she finds true meaning and understanding in the hustle of each day.
The Tulips, "Winter Winds"
Los Angeles-based psych folk duo The Tulips (AKA Jared Petrich and Dana Rogge) met by chance at a dicey bar and immediately hit it off. Finding out that they shared a love of classic folk melodies and spacey rock rhythms, the two set out to make music together. Since that time, they've been joined by a host of musicians whose presence helps flesh out the stark acoustic sounds of their previous work. Ethereal vocals meld comfortably with dreamy folk narratives and a serene backdrop on their upcoming record, "Echo Blue," which is due out in early 2015.
For their latest single, "Winter Winds," the band embraces the subtle psych influence of bands like Fairport Convention and Strawbs, and incorporates a casual folk gait that lends the track a haunting atmosphere. Both Rogge's and Petrich's delicate voices intertwine and build into a deceptively simple melody. The sounds have an organic feel to them, as if the track had always existed and was simply waiting for the right people to come along and pluck it from the air, fully formed.
Joshua Pickard covers local and national music, film and other aspects of pop culture. You can contact him on Facebook, Twitter or by email. The opinions expressed in this column belong solely to the author, not Nooga.com or its employees.