The Record Lounge: Reviews 02/08/11 – The O’s, Esben and the Witch, Trail of Dead
The O’s – Between The Two
“I hope you don’t mind getting your favorite record of the year so early” Idol Records impresario Erv Karwelis had jokingly written. I had just received a package containing the latest from The O’s – this handwritten message appeared on the one-sheet included – and those were some bold words coming out of one of Dallas’ oldest and most endearing independent labels.
The second (don’t say “sophomore” they claim to have been out of school for quite some time) release from the Dallas duo of John Pedigo and Taylor Young has already had quite a bit of fanfare. From local magazine covers shilling the Super Bowl, loads of love from local radio station KXT, who has been playing the infectious leadoff track/first single “We’ll Go Walkin” nonstop and running a live stream of the entire album on their website, as well as several high profile performances around the area, The O’s reach has been virtually inescapable in 2011 so far.
Produced by Stuart Sikes (Loretta Lynn, White Stripes), Between The Two has a spirited folk feel with bluegrass, Americana and pop influences abound flavored with a hint of Appalachia, not too far removed from early Scud Mountain Boys, Avett Brothers or Mountain Goats, yet sunnier and brighter. This is evident by upbeat tracks such as “Tryin To Have A Good Time”, “Everything’s Alright”, the aptly titled “Sunshine” and the album closer, “No Troubles Left At All”. Yet while these songs are robust and fun, The O’s make it interesting when they stretch their legs with moodier pieces “In Numbers We Survive”, “Pushin Along”, and “Remember You”.
In a year already starting off with strong releases, I can tell you that so far this has been a favorite in the first few weeks of 2011. Will Erv be right come December? Guess we’ll wait and see!
Available for download, Between The Two is also released on three physical formats, CD, LP and a very limited edition 8-track cassette for audiophiles of all walks.
Esben and the Witch – Violet Cries
Matador Records stretches into a new genre with the release of Violet Cries, the debut full-length from Esben and the Witch. Deemed by a member of the press as “nightmare pop”, Violet Cries is at once ethereal and percussive, while containing both gothic and trip-hop elements providing a sound akin to Zola Jesus meets Bat For Lashes and Cocteau Twins. The end result is not too far removed from what one would find on mid to late 80’s 4AD releases – at once dark, brooding, layered, gorgeous and haunting.
…And You Will Know Us By The Trail of Dead – Tao of the Dead
The seventh full length release from Austin’s former instrument demolishing masters, …And You Will Know Us By the Trail of Dead, could be my favorite release of theirs since 2002’s major label debut Source Codes & Tags. Honestly, I haven’t spent much time with their records since the Secret of Elena’s Tomb EP, but that just might change with Tao of the Dead. Their blend of indie-psychedelic-prog-punk has never made more sense to me than it does on this latest release. Tao of the Dead is truly engaging as a whole, a full work of art, begging to be experienced as such, not as individual tracks.