In this week’s Notes from Left of the Dial, Nooga.com takes a look at some new music from Beth Bombara, Pale Heads, Scott Krokoff and Sleepy Hahas. What have you been listening to this week?
Beth Bombara, “Thunder and Rain“
The music of Americana artist Beth Bombara is familiar-she’s mining a fertile landscape of folk, blues and country aesthetics without feeling as though she’s standing on the shoulders of her influences. It’s the ways she subverts our expectations that define her as someone who seeks out a certain experimentation wherever it lays and brings it to light. Stories of bucolic workers, damaged love and the search for companionship are only a few of the subjects that continually work themselves throughout her songs. She released a new self-titled record June 23.
On recent single “Thunder and Rain,” she finds that rhythmic sweet spot among a handful of buoyant melodies, a gleeful horn section and upbeat lyricism. Detailing the troubles and travails of maintaining a long-distance relationship (in this case, it’s to her husband, bandmate and producer Kit Hamon), she manages to show us that despite the often-unbearable time apart, these connections can stay strong across state lines. It’s not all easy times, however, and Bombara deals with the grief and pain as best as she can-just like anyone else. Her music is an outlet for these turbulent emotions, and on “Thunder and Rain,” she concocts a soaring ode to the power of love and friendship.
Pale Heads, “Devotion“
Melbourne, Australia’s Pale Heads make music that blends a noisy punk cacophony with something that more closely resembles pop music that’s been filtered through a half-dozen scuzzed-up modulators and hasn’t seen the light of day for weeks. It can occasionally be dingy and covered in fractured bits of noisy rhythms, but the band succeeds at allowing the music to simultaneously draw you in and push you away. Dripping with a caustic wit and execution, their songs are musical microcosms of tone and segmented patterns. It’s punk rock at its most wonderfully dissociative.
With “Devotion,” they look toward a collective sound and fury to get their point across. The song starts with a blurred chug and churn, voices growling and drums pounding to life. There’s nothing revolutionary here, but the band twists these sounds into shapes and rhythms that seem alien and doesn’t hold on to any genre for support. It’s obvious that they draw inspiration from early garage rock and punk, but they don’t retread these sounds in an attempt to affiliate themselves with greater bands. Their voice is very much their own and isn’t dependent on the works of any other artist.
Scott Krokoff, “Sparrows“
New York City singer-songwriter (and practicing lawyer) Scott Krokoff works within a gentle folk and lulling country aesthetic. His music is lilting and generous in its tendencies to dispense melodies that’ll have you humming for days. But there’s no sense of musical appropriation; he simply takes the sounds of his influences and reimagines them as something slightly askew of his own interpretations. This keeps his songs from feeling predictable or leaning too heavily on his own understanding of where his creative determination comes from. He sings about never giving up on your dreams and prioritizing your life to make the most of your time, and he’ll continue to shift his perspectives when his sophomore record, “Realizations & Declarations Vol. 2,” is released Sept. 4.
On his latest single, “Sparrows,” he forgoes the orchestral country pop inclinations and finds peace in a stripped-down frame of mind. This track looks to middle-of-the-road acts such as Tom Petty and Eric Clapton for inspiration but doesn’t trade on their often-generic sounds. There’s a calming gait to the song that acts as our entryway into its lullabylike rhythms and sounds. Krokoff isn’t in any hurry to get to where he’s going. With a bit of fingerpicked guitar and some shuffling percussion, he relays this story from a simple yet ultimately affecting position, offering us a brief glimpse into the motivations behind his music.
Sleepy Hahas, “Deep River“
Psychedelic garage rockers Sleepy Hahas aren’t afraid to dip their toes into some less-than-familiar waters from time to time. And they certainly aren’t afraid of bringing in some electronic flourishes to help structure their songs in a way that appeals to both the brain and the hips. Hailing from Buffalo, New York, the band is gearing up for the release of their latest record, “From the Bottom of a Warm Lake,” which will hit store shelves sometime later this fall. Working with producer Drew Vandenberg, they’ve bottled their psych-inflected rock with a bit of weirdo pop to form a disparate but curiously cohesive set of songs.
On “Deep River,” the band layers a dense cloud of electric guitar against singer Pat Butler’s fractured vocals, resulting in an all-encompassing sense of violent reprisal. The music slowly slithers around, determined to stretch its own boundaries before it runs out of time. The sound is a little more experimental than we’ve come to expect from the band, but it’s no less welcome because of its unpredictable nature. The LSD-induced animation that makes up the track’s video seems to be a bit of inspired lunacy, with trippy visuals and drug-addled perspectives bumping into one another and flying off in all directions. The music and video pair perfectly, slowing bending the air around them with their immaculate disregard for form and narrative progression.
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.