In Notes From Left of the Dial this week, Nooga.com spends time with music from Cavalen, Waterfall Wash, The School Book Depository and Commander Keen. What have you been listening to lately?
Cavalen, "Viva Adore"
Birmingham, Alabama, rock group Cavalen began when singer Shellina Ryals posted some lyrics to MySpace many years ago. Her future husband saw them and offered his suggestions, leading to the beginning of both their personal and professional relationships. Having worked with guitarist Jesslyn Parmley in a church band, Ryals asked her to join the evolving band, and with the addition of drummer Will Drake, the core lineup of the band was set. Drawing equal inspiration from Stevie Nicks and AC/DC, the band welds rock ingenuity like a scalpel, peeling away layers of their own musical associations until only an undiluted sound is left.
On their new single, "Viva Adore," the band wanders through an old-fashioned rock 'n' roll thundercloud. Awash in alt rock theatrics and garish rhythms, the track provides a proper platform for Ryals' fiery voice and the thrumming momentum of the band. There's a good deal of volume, but that doesn't mean the band forgoes attention to the underlying melodies. By layering an intense rock swagger with an emotionally resonant heart, they create a bombast that strikes at the raw nerves that run throughout our body, fashioning a cycle of physical responses to their stomping rock presence. The band roars throughout, doling out wave after wave of a densely resonant musical persuasion.
Waterfall Wash, "Time Flies"
The music of Nashville group Waterfall Wash isn't attuned to any one line of musical thought—it exhibits a free-floating inspiration that culls bits and pieces from dozens of genres. Wandering through rock, Americana and ambient atmospheres may seem like a strange thing for most bands, but they're able to tread these paths with the practiced skill of a band who's been doing this for decades. Their instincts for what works find them building a foundation that's as exciting as it is unforeseeable. With the recent release of their latest EP, "Become What You See," they're looking to further blur the lines within their rhythmic fascinations.
On recent single "Time Flies," they build a shuffling indie rock noise that wouldn't feel out of place on a record by Mercury Rev or Grandaddy. The guitars build slowly before erupting in a dazzling display of amber-hued melodies and proceed to lay themselves across everything that crosses their path. There are moments when the music withdraws, letting some air inside the track and providing a cushion from which we never want to leave. "Time Flies" is true to its name, as the track rushes by far too quickly, leaving us wanting to hear it just one more time. There's a simple beauty in its complex appearance, a welcoming gait that ushers us easily into its embrace.
The School Book Depository, "Salvation"
The School Book Depository is the venue through which Swedish musician Fredrik Solfors realizes a casual amalgam of kaleidoscopic influences. He brandishes woozy hip-hop beats, groovy psych rhythms and indie pop loveliness as he attempts to interpret the sounds drifting around in his head. He's set to release his debut record as The School Book Depository later this month. Drawn from demos he recorded in his home studio in Växjö, Sweden, in 2016, this album presents Solfors as a multifaceted talent whose only limitation is the scope of his imagination.
On new single "Salvation," he matches a casual percussive stroll through indie rock's history with a skewed pop skeleton that wouldn't feel out of place on a record from The Flaming Lips. His voice rises alongside crunchy guitar riffs and sweeping string arrangements as he collects all this noise into a coherent rhythmic perspective. Equal parts dense and airy, "Salvation" is a perfect example of his layered musical outlook, the kind of warped and welcome pop-rock creativity that so often goes unnoticed by all but a few attentive listeners.
Commander Keen, "Melter"
Cookeville, Tennessee-based rock outfit Commander Keen thrashes and thunders, but it's all in service to something that offers more than just the expectation of volume. Composed of singer-guitarist Blake Marlow, bassist Matt Billings and drummer Zach Ramsey, the band owes a good deal of debt to the garage and classic rock bands of the '60s and '70s—admittedly, they employ a sound that might dismantle amps in a quicker fashion than those influences, but they adhere to the same fervent and furious rock aesthetic that has furled bands for decades. They released a new record, "What a Waste," back in January, and it's a monster of acrobatic rock cacophony and lacerating licks.
With album cut "Melter," the band looks to seer their punkish rock rhythms directly onto your brain, leaving an impression that isn't likely to go away anytime soon. Guitars crunch and crackle as drums beat away at the hollow parts of your bones. The song tackles the melodic hard rock of Black Sabbath and the fuzzed-out noise of Ty Segall while experimenting with some wonderfully unexpected sax riffs that build to a quaking resolution. They're able to mine these sounds in ways that highlight their inherent unpredictability while also providing a common point for people to step into this dark and resonant rock landscape.
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.
Updated @ 8:26 a.m. on 4/7/17 to correct a factual error: Cavalen hails from Birmingham, Alabama, not Birmingham, England, as originally reported.