You get a definite feeling for the place all of this comes from being a slow place filled with beauty and dreary sadness that’s all easy to miss as it’s lurking under the surface. These are the people who took the time to slow down and take it all in. Texas can be like that in the heat and dust. All filled with work and ugly people until you get home and are alone again with the wind, the heat, and your guitar.
You can’t help but love the Mouse Trap song it opens with. Tingly acoustics and soft voices tenderly speaking at you. Mouse Trap is like an omen for this collection of songs, with its mousy vocals and modest mouse influences are prevalent throughout. Mouse Trap though, reminds me of all the songs I wrote on heroin in the Texas summer in my mid 20s. I very much enjoyed it, especially the tingly outro.
Mouse Trap is followed by mousy vocals of Crisman cooing about what she knows and what she needs. Sad and deliberate to its conclusion. Her voice and delivery are interesting, super small and almost strained or confused sounding, I definitely want to hear more of what she’s doing. The end of this song for me is intensely compelling and recalls early Folk Implosion, and Lou Barlow in some lost feminine incarnation (I think I’ve been listening to too much Lou Barlow).
Next we have a cover of someone named Emily Vacina by Bare Mountain. The instrumentation is way more planned out here, and there are obvious tones of Animal Collective or early Flaming Lips. This also reminds me a fair bit of a band called Peachcake that I knew once upon a time. It’s like psychedelia deconstructed, dreamy and Cheshire cat ish. Or like some chorus of Jim Henson birds.
Dead Sullivan follows this up with a melancholic dirge called Win that’s closer to mogwai territory in the intro. Mellow and smooth, this really pushes the compilation forward and keeps you engaged. This breaks up into an outro that really does sound like some lost, mumbly, modest mouse track from ‘the moon and antarctica’ or ‘the lonesome crowded west’ before it decays into tape.
Skirts, again deeply melancholic mousy vocals dancing over sparse acoustics. This one plays with vocal rhythms and harmonies in this really pleasant way that gets stuck in my head so very much. This whole piece puts me on the verge of tears with its open wounds bared for everyone to see. It’s emotional and introspective, and everything I want from a sound like this. I think this may be one of my new favorite artists to be honest.
Fvck follows with the most produced piece so far, and due to the lo fi context I was a bit put off with it. It feels solid but diluted compared to the simplified purity of the tracks that preceded it. Just because it’s produced doesn’t mean it isn’t very pretty though. The track is called Madeline, and it’s all very 90s lounge band, back when flannel and jeans could be fashionable they would have opened for cranberries or maybe even someone like collective soul (also from Texas iirc).
Oh China Club is here, and they’re not going to fit in with some club music, ok. I needed to skip this and come back later on to listen to this separately, because the change is so jarring. The first tracks flowed into each other too well to have this interrupt, and that’s exactly what it did. I listen to and make primarily electronic music, but I found most of this to be hyperactive and twitchy, and I wasn’t really into it at all. The production is fine, and maybe this would sound better at half tempo, but this feels like it was a bunch of disparate ideas just mashed together into a pulsating ADD whole.
This completely fucked up the flow of the compilation, and it really didn’t belong here if we’re all being honest with each other. Everything so far was in lockstep with a specific mood that this completely destroys, I really don’t understand how this happened after listening to more of their stuff on bandcamp which is all very very good, and sounds like it would’ve fit the vibe perfectly.
Had they used literally any other track from there I think it would have flowed better, but there’s no way to know if they had any idea of the type of comp this was turning out to be. People are going to skip this track, maybe even stop the compilation here if they’re that type of listener, but they shouldn’t judge this before checking out China Club’s bandcamp, I almost did and it would’ve been an injustice.
The next track is by William Austin Clay, and while it also doesn’t necessarily fit the preceding tracks, he benefits from China Club taking the hit for changing the vibe of the mix. I found it to be creative, and a weird approach that feels like a person (persons) is making things they really want to hear together. The hook is catchy, and you’ll catch yourself humming even though you’ll probably find it weird at parts.
Next with Picnics who put down something interesting, experimental, and still in the same vibe as the others. Picnics is a quartet from Dallas who don’t have a bandcamp or anything, and that’s disappointing. This is a lot closer to the foray into electronics you’d have been prepared for after the first tracks. Like some weird desert western electronics sound that seems like it should definitely be explored more. While really simple in construction, it feels like there is a lot to the whole vibe that could be continually explored for new directions. It really brings to mind for me cold nights out in west Texas.
The group Why Bonnie is next with leave the light on, and we’re back to 90s nostalgia. So weird that there are 2 groups in the same area who would have competed to open for cranberries. I think I prefer this track to the other Cranberries opener, and really you can have 2 opening bands for the Cranberries and god dammit they’d both be good. They put together something really nice and the hooks are catchy. Subscribing to the true ethos of the weird shape shifting genre that is “alternative music” they definitely carve out a very chill space. I bet their live show has lots of weird hippie lights and shit. If not, they should consider getting a bunch of weird hippie lights and shit.
The Hovvdy track ‘paint’ is fucking super. I fucking love this sound. Idk what to say but, this is really good. There is something to the tone set here that I need more of. I feel like the production could use some polish in spots but in others this sits perfectly in the pocket. Going to listen to this more for sure. I have one personal gripe, and it’s that I always read a v as a v even if you put two of them next to each other, and will never read it as a w. Hovvdy is going to be missed by everyone being all the way back here, but you are all fucking up, listen to this. That declarative chorus at the end is what I want to grow into a shouted mantra that explodes into the sky, but it doesn’t, but I want it to and it’s still good.
The final track by Pissing boy ‘there’s just life and rings of rubber’ is a quick sojourn into music made with what would appear to be toys and other odd sounds. I enjoy things like this because they create beauty with odd objects, and I myself love doing this too. There are parts where they grab you and pull you into something you want to hear more of, before they decay it again, only for a refrain to bring it all back and take you out. Right when you’re starting to groove into this small thing it becomes more and you’re kind of blown away at the size of everything all of a sudden.
I like this, it’s like a group of hippies playing toys in a fun house with a bassist and drummer. It’s a nice ending to a good collection of songs that, if you’re an outsider, you might not expect to come from Texas. Reviewing compilations is weird. Running through opinions on so many artists in short form is weird. Some of you were judged a bit more harshly due to the mix, and I’m sorry, but it’s the nature of the format.
Texas is a weird place. Our art really puts this on display for everyone. We’re not all rednecks and conservative hypocrites, some of us are just regular hypocrites too. In our differences you’ll find some strange diamonds, and if you cut them into shape you may find something that will make a lot of money. But like everything in Texas it will take work, because it’s just a little bit different than what you’d expect.
- Review – Dead Leaf Echo – Truth (2&1 Records)
- Review: Merge – S/T
- Review – James Britt – Small Guitar Pieces
- Review Batch – Z Tapes Sampler, Carl Kavorkian
- Review: Third Witness and Friends – Illequal