In Notes From Left of the Dial this week, Nooga.com spends some time with music from M. Lockwood Porter, North By North, Waterfall Wash and No One Mind. What have you been listening to this week?
M. Lockwood Porter, “American Dreams Denied”
The work of Berkeley, California-based singer-songwriter M. Lockwood Porter is based loosely around Americana’s back porch approach to music. But it’s his ability to successfully integrate other genres into this countrified noise that really sets him apart from his alt country peers. He evinces the same sort of brash hopefulness and pointed frustration that wound up being Bruce Springsteen’s calling card, but Porter loops through these sounds without resorting to pale mimicry. And on his new record, “How to Dream Again” (out Sept. 16), he continues to work his way through these well-mined rhythms while carving out his own identity.
On his latest single, “American Dreams Denied,” Porter evokes the classic rock earnestness and ferocity of bands like Titus Andronicus and The Hold Steady but delves into some intensely personal experiences that inform his raucous, bucolic aesthetic. As the track progresses, his voice stretches out to encompass a wide emotional range, with crunchy guitar lines and solid blocks of percussion continually pumping through your speakers. It’s one thing to emulate these sounds, but Porter creates entirely new avenues through them, ones that rely on inherent ability and not rote imitation.
North By North, “Mama Gold”
Chicago-based musicians Kendra Blank and Nate Girard record as North By North, and under that moniker, they weave together bits of surf-inspired pop genius with feral DIY rock predilections. The duo ends up offering a buoyant but dense assortment of sounds that play to their influences while still forming an insular and astonishing aesthetic all their own. There’s a slightly polished sheen to their songs, but that doesn’t keep them from having an emotional bite-which they certainly do. They ramble through a heady rock ‘n’ roll brew that owes as much to classic rock as it does to the garage rock revival of the early ’00s.
With recent single “Mama Gold,” the band lifts the playful pop punk serration of Hot Hot Heat and mixes it with the rhythmic oscillations of psych garage purveyor Ty Segall. The resulting mass of noise and emotion reveals that there are still pockets of mystery left to explore in this inclusive collection of sounds. And while there are hints at their traditional garage rock foundations, Girard and Blank never allow the music to rest in one groove for very long before picking up and rushing off to rearrange some other aspect of this fierce and complex approach to their influences.
Waterfall Wash, “Married to the Sound”
Nashville may be commonly associated with country music, but there are countless artists whose work bucks that simple affiliation. For Waterfall Wash, their amalgam of rock, folk and loosely hewn Americana sets them apart from other musicians who wade through similar waters. They easily combine and disassemble these sounds into their base elements before reconstructing them into wholly original and utterly fascinating collections of melodies and well-worn rhythms. Under their careful direction, the familiar takes on a refreshingly new and lucid appearance.
On their new single, “Married to the Sound,” Waterfall Wash plays around with an exuberant pop and alt folk explosion that was inspired by the marriage of band members Ellice Evans and Michael Roddy. Not content to simply retread the myriad love songs that have been offered in the service of great affection, the band creates an energetic and ecstatic slice of rustic pop that’ll leave your head spinning with its proliferation of elastic synths and iridescent guitars. There’s a considerable depth of emotion that underscores its inspiration, but the band elevates this ode to intimacy far above the usual banality of music that is commonly associated with this particular topic.
No One Mind, “Tiger”
There are times when good things can come from heartache and bad blood. Just look at North Carolina trio No One Mind-a band whose creation was the direct result of the bitter dissolution of a previous musical collaboration. Consisting of Missy Thangs, Ellis Anderson and Noah Dehmer, No One Mind is the vehicle through which they channel these feelings of betrayal and frustration. Sporting a knack for mingling traditional indie rock beats with something a bit denser and oddly structured, the band turns these feelings of musical infidelity into a cathartic realization of their own liberation.
Across the breadth of “Tiger,” the latest single from the band’s forthcoming self-titled record, they invoke the chill of haunted landscapes, fog-ridden fields and the anxiety that can come from the unexpected events of a complicated relationship. It’s spectral in its own way, although it’s bathed in nervous guitars and a fierce independence. The vocals seem to lie atop the music, riding its crest until the track reaches its brooding and intense conclusion.
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.