Alt-Nation: New CDs, a Road Trip, and the WBRU Rock Finals

Brown Bird – Fits of Reason (Supply and Demand Music)
Brown Bird is another in the recent run of successful local bands to graduate out of the Providence scene to the national realm. They spent much of the past year on tour and played the main stage at festivals like the Newport Folk Fest. It gets tricky doing things like the nominations for the Motif Awards last month to judge when it is time to start disqualifying bands for being national. Truth is, there is no higher compliment to a band to say you’ve graduated out of this. Brown Bird was one of the bands I didn’t nominate for this reason. Brown Bird may have gone national, but they still have their local roots. Their new CD, Fits of Reason, was recorded at Machines With Magnets in Pawtucket. They’ll also be doing a local CD Release show at The Met Café on April 5th.
Fits of Reason, the third full-length (fourth in total) release from Brown Bird, builds sonically on the dark folk from their earlier releases. As a two-piece composed of David Lamb and MorganEve Swain, they have become known for using simple percussion with an array of instruments such as cello, violin, and upright bass. It doesn’t take long to notice the changes when the first track, “Seven Hells,” features an electric guitar. The minimal thump and biblical imagery of the Lamb’s lyrics mesh well to create a vibe of urgency.
“Bow For Blade” is another winner, coming in a guitar then switching over to violin. The lyrics paint a stark picture of turmoil in the town square as Swain sings, “falling through the sky, crowds have gathered mouths gaped open wide, some are shouting, some are stupefied, others would rather be home.”
The lyrics as a whole on Fits of Reason are interesting as Brown Bird list influences from different stages in history, such as Thomas Paine, Omar Khayyam, Christopher Hitchens, and Plato. The philosophical bent becomes more apparent with repeated listens on tunes like “The Messenger” and “Threads of Reason.” I’ve never been the biggest folk music fan, but Brown Bird is much more than traditional folk. There are elements of blues, Americana, and rock that make songs like “Threads of Reason” sound like rock ‘n’ roll demos. Swain and Lamb’s combined harmonies on the closer, “Caves,” is downright hypnotizing over a simple beat. Fits of Reason shows an evolved Brown Bird trudging forward without straying from their strengths.
Brown Bird will release Fits of Reason on April 2nd. The CD Release Show for Fits of Reason, featuring Brown Bird, Last Good Tooth, and Alec K Redfearn And The Eyesores, will take place at The Met Café on April 5th. There will also be a Fits of Reason after party at Local 121 immediately after The Met show with Ark Life (featuring Jesse Elliott of These United States), Smith & Weeden, and Tristan Omand.

Caroline Hecht – 10 Song Digital Download Release
For the past few years, Providence has had the pleasure of enjoying Caroline Hecht’s music as a member of Tig and Bean and as a solo artist. Unfortunately, that is about to come to an end as Caroline is soon to leave town to go on a six-month unchartered tour around the country in her car playing music wherever she can. But no goodbye is any good without a party, and Caroline will be throwing one and giving out her new album that she recorded a few weeks ago. Caroline’s music is dark folk with undercurrents of blues, kind of like Cat Power or Mazzy Star. Last year she released the well-received album, Avenue of Giants, which was a four-years-in-the-making undertaking. For her new album, she changed it up and recorded everything over three days. The album hadn’t been mixed and mastered at press time, but Caroline let me hear a few tracks on the condition that I post it all over the Internet. My favorite is “Apothegm,” which is a great tell off song, somewhere between PJ Harvey and Ani Difranco. “Something So” has a kind of wistful yearning of raw emotion. “Swallowed By Swells” has a slow blues/indie folk feel. “Orchid” is another winner in the same vibe as the above. I’m usually more of a rock guy, but I really dig Hecht’s work.
Caroline Hecht’s Release/Bon Voyage Party will take place on April 6th at Local 121 in Providence. The Doors are at 9 pm with $10 cover that includes a digital download card for Caroline’s latest release. DJ Micah Jackson will handle the turntable honors for the post show dance party.

Consuelo’s Revenge – Self Titled Debut CD
Consuelo’s Revenge are poised to release their debut CD. I remember seeing their first show and thinking they had a Tom Waits type of thing going on. After listening to this disc, I can say they really sound nothing like Tom Waits. I couldn’t be happier about that. Lead singer Amanda Salemi has one hell of a powerhouse voice. The band also features Nick Smyth (Guitar/Piano/Vocals), Alexandra Gibbons (Violin), Kirk Anderson (Electric Guitar/Accordion), Kurtis Bento (Drums), and Ian Lacombe (Double Bass, Vocals). As for the biscuit itself, I never thought that I would really like something from a band in this style as much as I do! The verse of “Just The Drugs” may play out like an amped up waltz of Deer Tick’s “Ashamed,” but the song is really good. Salemi’s vocals make this tune, especially with the chorus hook and lyrics. Laccombe takes over the vocals on “Leave The World Behind,” which has a waltzing flamingo flavor, although the melody bears some similarity to Hope Anchor’s “Go.”
This could just be a sign that I listen to too much local music, though. I’m pretty sure nobody else has these thoughts. “Pasadena” is another killer cut with Salemi back on lead vocals that has an up-tempo blues vibe. “Smile” has a kind of New Orleans meets Jessica Lea Mayfield vibe that hits you in the gut. On “When I Die,” Consuelo’s Revenge even branch out to dip into some gospel. Consuelo’s Revenge does three traditional covers in “Forest Flower Waltz,” “Well Well Well,” and “Henry Lee.” The cover of “Well, Well, Well” has the band sounding like early Nick Cave, while their version of “Henry Lee” may top Cave’s version on The Murder Ballads. I get a lot of things sent to me to review, but rarely does a CD make me want to go out and see the band right now. In fact, because I listen to a CD over and over in a short period of time, the last thing I want to see is usually the band I just reviewed. That said, Consuelo’s Revenge is potent enough that I actually wish their CD release show was tonight! But it is not. I’ll have to wait till April 12th for the CD Release Party, which will take place at The Spot in Providence. Consuelo’s Revenge; Girls, Guns, and Glory (great band from Boston); and other special guests, including Boo City’s horn section, will all be rocking on this bill.

WBRU Rock Finals
The dust has cleared and we have the Final Four for the big dance with Lolita Black, The Brother Kite, Torn Shorts, and Kid Mountain all advancing out of their respective brackets. I went 2 for 4 on my semi-finals picks, which, while bad for me, is a testament to the overall strength of this year’s WBRU Rock Hunt field. The Finals aren’t going to be any easier to predict as I see three of the bands having the chance to take home the glory.

Lolita Black

has the prototypical puncher’s chance to win. No band in this field has any chance to out-rock a band with Bob Otis in it. Lolita Black is the band that other bands do not want to follow. That said, one of the categories is “Radio Ready” and Lolita Black’s band of metal-punk is much heavier than WBRU’s format. Lolita Black is best off doing what they do best and bringing the thunder while trying to mix it up maybe a little. The Brother Kite is the universal favorite and with good reason. Their sound is polished and pretty diverse. People who I watched their semi-finals with brought up comparisons to everything from Brit-pop to Cheap Trick to Weezer. They slowed it down at one point for a song I didn’t like and played into their advantage by bringing it back up with the next one. Everybody else might have to play the perfect set to win, but these guys don’t have to.
Torn Shorts had one of the more bizarre sets in a Rock Hunt I’ve ever seen. They came on and started to play a set and then it almost looked like they had a meltdown. They stopped and got off stage for 10 minutes and then came back. It could have been a sound check, but it was just generally weird. They returned and started playing the same song and it was kind of just boring for a song or two. Then around the third song it just clicked; it was like watching the musical version of the 90s video game, NBA Jam. I even shouted, “They’re heating up!” One could see them win over the crowd, and it was no surprise when the announcement that they advanced was made.
Kid Mountain is the bettor’s long shot dream here. It’s like putting money on the Jacksonville Jaguars to win the Super Bowl. They’re kind of Americana/indie pop and who knows, it would be a great story if they pull it off. It is just a really tough year to do it.
It’s really tough to pick here because my head says the Brother Kite should win. My heart always favors the underdog – Kid Mountain. My eyes say Torn Shirts after witnessing them at Fete. So I’m going to do the responsible thing and ignore all of that malarkey and go with Lolita Black. Why? Because Bob Otis winning the WBRU Rock Hunt is the coolest thing I can think of happening here. WBRU Rock Hunt Finals take place at The Met Café in Pawtucket on April 6th. Email to marc@motifmagazine.net

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