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As is so often the case, though, the band’s highs and lows are still driven by their charismatic lead singer, whose lyrics and vocal presence still contains some lingering traces of innocence and youth that can make blues-driven numbers like the tightly-written “Boyhood Pride” or the surprisingly charming hook-up ode “Sugar” feel like its striving for a rough and tough vibe that the singer can’t quite match yet. Elsewhere, though, Durrett uses that sense of hopeful romanticism to full effect, particularly in the pop-rock gem “Closer” and the closing ballad “In Rhonda.” And when he goes full-tilt for the stratosphere in the howling chorus of “Dear Liza,” it’s clear that Durrett is learning to have it both ways, and in the process forging his own highly-potent musical identity. // KP

the structure coming from clear, concise vocal melodies, often supported by Allgrim. Lyrically, there is a balance of songs with sweet nostalgia appropriate for the pop-heavy vibe (“Smoke” and “Eighteen Again”) as well as more weightier material that can often drift right past in the warmth of the arrangements (“Little Birdy,” “Handgun Flowers”). Compton smartly decided to limit these arrangements to just what the band was capable of live, lending a lush minimalism that is quite striking, and showcasing the unique possibilities of such an unusual lineup. For that reason alone, this self-titled sticks out in a major way among the music released in Columbia this year.

// KP

By Kyle Petersen w/ Thomas Hammond

CHRiS COMPTON AND THE RUby bRUNETTES Self-Titled NED AND THE DiRT Giants When Ned Durrett first popped up on the Columbia scene, he was an ungainly, unabashedly romantic poprock songwriter blessed with a big, swooning voice that made up for some of the cornier and more pedestrian moments in his tunes. Over the last few years, as he’s gradually solidified his backing band and started writing weightier material, he’s shed some of his more preponderant baggage while embracing his strengths, an evolution which lends Giants a nice balance of youthful exuberance and musical gravitas. As backing bands go, “the Dirt” are an adventurous and limber bunch, willing to throw instrumental breaks and extended outros into even the most straight-forward pop tune. Much of their sound is indebted to the sprawling indie-Southern rock that My Morning Jacket rode to fame, although Durrett’s new-found grit makes even his falsetto more characteristic of Dan Auerbach (The Black Keys) than Jim James, a not-unwelcome twist given the number of bands trafficking in straightforwardly Neil Young-inspired indie rock these days. With Archer Avenue engineer Kenny McWilliams twisting the knobs and lending his signature atmospheric sheen to the proceedings, Giants is nothing if not the product of an accomplished, highly confident rock ‘n’ roll band.

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As a songwriter and musician, longtime scene member Chris Compton has always been a bit of a restless soul. He’s fronted a variety of bands over the past two decades, from the jammy King Cotton to the progressive/alternative rock trio The Fossil Record, all of which shared a nontraditional approach to songwriting, where standard structures or chord progressions were set aside in favor of more unusual and experimental approaches to genres that tend to be a little predictable. Recently, his solo work has set aside the fiery guitar work in favor of a more baroque-pop approach, with a wide palette of instruments (including flute and saxophone) that the multi-instrumentalist plays himself. Despite their instrumental complexity, these songs have tended towards a far more laidback, sing-along quality than his earlier work, a move which allows Compton’s undeniable gift for melody to shine through. This, his latest effort, is the first to incorporate members of the Ruby Brunettes, an ensemble of musicians that Compton has been playing around town with to flesh out his new material. A band without a rhythm section, these songs are built on the intertwining guitars of the bandleader and longtime collaborator Jason Switzer, although it is trombonist Catherine Allgrim and the keyboard work of Ashleigh Morse that most often grab the spotlight. Reminiscent of the bedroom pop extravaganzas created by Iron & Wine or Badly Drawn Boy, Compton’s songs balance uneasily on a bed of meandering folk and jazz undercurrents, with much of

CANCElliERi III (EP) The songwriting side project of Ryan Hutchens, who also plays bass with the energetic post-rockers Pan, Cancellieri has made a sudden shift from their first two efforts, 2011’s Early Spring EP and the 2012 follow-up Bad Hands EP. Both of these records were mostly lush, electronic-driven affairs that used warm synths and rough-yet-cinematic arrangements alongside the occasional more folk-driven meditation, with the net effect emphasizing the kaleidoscopic effects of the production style in lieu of the songs themselves. Live performances by Hutchens sometimes cleared the air, as evidenced by the Live at Conundrum recording made available online last year, but is still doesn’t quite prepare you for III. Working with Alex McCollum of Stagbriar and again released by Post-Echo, this recording sees Hutchens shedding much of the more ambient aspects of his tunes in favor of stretching out in a straightforward indie-Americana style which places more emphasis on the songwriter’s soaring vocals and wide-eyed lyricism, and his penchant for reverb-laden psych-folk which makes every song feel like a gorgeous, undeniably hopeful sunrise is in full force. Smart, minimalist percussion, droning synths, and graceful string arrangements flesh out many of these songs, lending them a propulsive quality reminiscent of such ornate groups as Mercury Rev, but Hutchens is very much charting out his own territory here. He even takes a break in the middle of the record with “Shotgun Blues,” a Tim Easton-style folk tune played in an unadorned style with just a guitar and a voice, along with some chirping insects and other background noises, audible on the mix. While the casual, thrown-off way that it’s performed and recorded

Jasper Magazine  
Jasper Magazine  

Vol. 002 No. 006