In Notes From Left of the Dial this week, Nooga.com spends time with new music from RG Lowe, The Red Western, Parker Longbough and Bern Kelly. What have you been listening to lately?
RG Lowe, "State of Play"
The work of Austin, Texas, native RG Lowe can be a tricky thing to categorize. His wordless work with post-rock purveyors Balmorhea is ethereal and hard to grasp in your fingers. But his solo work is something altogether different, a gossamer mix of smooth melodies and Fleetwood Mac-esque tendencies. This dramatic split between his two musical personalities is one of the reasons why an investigation into his solo music is so fascinating and leads to more questions than answers. Lowe is gearing up for the release of his debut record, which will hit stores June 2 via Western Vinyl, and it further shrouds his musical trajectory in a fog of crooning vocals and glistening pop inclinations.
With "State of Play," the latest single from Lowe's upcoming album, "Slow Time," he fashions a bit of '70s pop brilliance that feels leagues apart from his instrumental work in Balmorhea. By infusing his music with a soft R&B bounce and multiple layers of AM rock melodies, he creates a beatific landscape where the post-rock intricacies of his earlier band-oriented releases provide the necessary thrust to delve into the soft-focus pop that has claimed his attention as of late. If this track is any indication, maybe Lowe should step up to the mic more often and show us just how comfortable he is crooning away until the early hours of the morning.
The Red Western, "Don't Blame Me"
Pittsburgh-based indie rock band The Red Western specializes in a cross-genre application of folk, pop and rock influences that highlight the strengths of each genre while drawing out the unique musical specificity they possess. Their work can be ragged and dense, a deliberate indie rock weight pressed into compact pop-shaped nuggets for quick consumption; they can also be billowing folk soliloquies that espouse a bucolic outlook on life and hang on tightly to their respective emotional provocations. The band manages to whirl through these various musical climes without pausing to take a breath and delivers a stunning amalgam of their individual inspirations.
On recent single "Don't Blame Me," the band continues to explore the ragged crevasses and subtle variations common to both Americana and indie rock. Their bristling rock experiments are tempered by a gentle and thorough understanding of the way melody interacts with and affects the scattered influences that the band brings to bear on their individual inspirations. There's a definite bite, with the guitars feeling a bit denser and more jagged than on past releases, but the band is no less interested in the functionality of their collective pop histories and how their rock tendencies are shaped by these vibrant rhythmic extrapolations.
Parker Longbough, "May Kasahara"
Alaskan musician Matthew Witthoeft performs under the moniker of Parker Longbough, forming a pop-rock vision of the world around him that draws bits and pieces from a handful of genres. First gaining recognition for his work in Uncle Jesse, an Anchorage-based band, he would go on to release his debut record as Parker Longbough in 2006. With the release of his upcoming record, "Bridges to Nowhere/Delirium in Lo-fi," he seeks to flesh out the sound that occupied the length of his first album. Released through Wilderhood Records June 2, it will find the musician covering a wide berth of rhythmic ground and expanding the sonic territory of his debut.
On his new single, "May Kasahara," Longbough channels the severity of early indie rock bands like Modest Mouse and The Halo Benders but injects his own twisted rhythms and howled vocals. Exploring this serrated sound through lines of serpentine guitar lines and caustic bursts of percussion, he details the emotional ups and downs of drug use while setting the background ambience with slithering synths and surprising bass detours. The overall impression is one of hesitant exploration, the kind of accidental discovery that can lead to tremendous riches—if the band is adventurous and determined enough to see this wandering musical spirit through to its sparked cathartic conclusion.
Bern Kelly, "Garage Sale" (featuring Elise Davis)
Nashville singer-songwriter Bern Kelly doesn't cling to fashionable trends in music—his work is based on the strength of the song itself. If that holds up to his rather steep rhythmic requirements, he proceeds to unfurl its lovely interiors. And when it came time to create the foundation for his new record, "Lost Films" (out June 23), he took pleasure in extracting the extraordinary things from everyday experiences. Ranging from gorgeous folk narratives to propulsive pop perspectives, the record is a colorful wash of differing influences and attitudes. He never holds to one idea for very long, varying his delivery and production from one track to the next.
On his latest single, "Garage Sale," he joins forces with singer Elise Davis and presents a reverb-soaked, plainspoken Americana perspective that echoes with the struggles and joy that exist within the walls of our hearts. Evoking the longing of early Whiskeytown and the country verve of Jason Isbell, Kelly offers these gorgeous and worn folk sounds for our approval, building a steady stream of meticulous melodies and harmonies alongside Davis that recalls the vocal wonder and beauty of the noise constructed by Isbell and his wife, Amanda Shires. But despite the similarities, Kelly is able to hold on to his pastoral individuality even among all these well-mined influences.
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.