In Notes From Left of the Dial this week, Nooga.com spends some time with songs from Chris Stalcup & The Grange, Great Peacock, The Jonathan Fox Band and Getaway Dogs. What have you been listening to this week?
Chris Stalcup & The Grange, "Downhearted Fools"
Atlanta alt country hell-raiser Chris Stalcup isn't interested in superficial things—his interests go far deeper, down where the boundaries between the heart, head and experience blur until all continuity is lost in a shuffle of forgotten Southern roads, classic rock 'n' roll and country swagger. Bringing to mind artists like Drive-By Truckers and Gram Parsons, Stalcup and his band evince a natural and effortless country strength. You can practically feel the fire from his barnburners, although he knows enough to dial it back when his audience gets close. His music acts as his homespun confessional, where his fears and frustration boil to the surface in a fog of twang and brimstone.
On his new single, "Downhearted Fools" (taken from his forthcoming record of the same name), Stalcup blends an electrifying barrage of guitar lines and brazenly rustic rhythms into a home for his well-worn, intensely personal narrative. Sounding like The Hold Steady fronted by Ryan Adams, the song builds an incredibly dramatic head of steam, churning and rolling in place until Stalcup's voice breaks through the darkness to lend a hand. It's country music that stands outside of time, that relies on experience and geography to establish its rightful ownership. It's the sound of Southern life turned up to 11 and baptized in the waters of the Mississippi River.
Great Peacock, "Let You Go"
The music of Nashville rockers Great Peacock exists in some alternate reality where a slightly bruised Americana sound and a fiery country hustle intertwine and explode in a shower of sparks. The band takes a bit of inspiration from their namesake and embraces the larger-than-life personas that spill out from the stage as they perform. In their quest to become more than just another band making ripples in a large pond, Great Peacock has found a particular country soul sound that emphasizes both their volatile rock theatrics and their ability to tone things down and evoke a more traditional folk- and country-influenced history.
On their latest single, "Let You Go," the band tramples expectations underfoot as they careen through their influences like a runaway freight train. Their country rock tendencies shine brightly, bringing to mind humid evenings in the summer and front porches full of music and laughter. But it's the breezy and deceptive harmonies between co-founders Andrew Nelson and Blount Floyd that are likely to grab your attention and keep your ears fixed on your speakers. The song thumps and stamps in all the right places, leaving you bruised, sweaty and anxious to do it all over again.
Getaway Dogs, "Excuses/Opinions"
Getaway Dogs was born from the inspiration of musician Kai Killion, a man whose history is marked by a constant sense of motion. Throughout his childhood, he moved from place to place, eventually ending up in Rio de Janeiro; and it was there, surrounded by his Brazilian heritage, that he first learned how to play guitar. He released his first record, "Mermaid Legs & Getaway Dogs," in 2013—a record from which he drew inspiration for the name of his current band. He brought on singer and longtime friend Samantha Stone to sing harmony and provide the occasional lead vocal, and her presence is felt all over the band's upcoming album, "Lost in the Ebb," due out Aug. 19.
With recent single "Excuses/Opinions," they express the casual comfort and laid-back cool of coastal California, decorating each minute with elements of folk, jazz, tropicalia and surf rock—developing the kind of fizzy, world-traveled pop that David Byrne covets. With simmering vocals from Stone, the song becomes a series of humid revelations, an open conversation on the validity of movement and creativity in a world that doesn't seem to value either. Drifting melodies bounce off fingerpicked curlicues and an uncomplicated emotional release. The song feels free of tangible location and form—it doesn't adhere to any recognizable rhythmic blueprint and is all the more remarkable for its refusal to give up all its secrets at once.
The Jonathan Fox Band, "Family & Friends (Hurt & Make Up)"
Singer-songwriter Jonathan Fox doesn't let the details escape his notice. Whether it's in the deterioration of an intense romance or the joys of youth, Fox is able to divine the reasoning behind even the smallest scraps of emotion and expand them to monolithic proportions. He does this all within the boundaries of a bright pop tradition. But far from being staid or mired in stillness, his work reflects the response of a charged pulse reacting to every moment of sensation during any given day. His voice, simultaneously cautious and inclusive, evokes a simple honesty that can feel absolutely necessary when the time comes.
On "Family & Friends (Hurt & Make Up)," Fox and his band wander through a meandering rock shuffle, the kind of bustling sound that might soundtrack some rainy afternoon spent reading your favorite book, but there are also a restless spirit and biting lyrical bent. The song marries its barbed narrative with upbeat rhythms and fashions a wonderfully disparate look at how experience and reality don't always sync up in the most linear ways. It also spends time looking at the ways we hurt each other and how we try to mend those ties once they've become frayed and stretched. Fox's casual vocal melodies wrap themselves snugly around your head, developing a lovely atmosphere of effortless emotion and memorable movement.
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.