Ear to the tracks

New albums to start off summer

By Justin Kreitzer
Photo: Fourth of July; photo credit: Nick Krug

Artist: Fourth Of July // Album: Empty Moon // Label:  High Dive Records // Release Date: April 9, 2013

 In April, Kansas-based band Fourth Of July released Empty Moon,their third album and debut for new K.C.-based label High Dive Records. The band is led by the conversational wordplay of vocalist/guitarist Brendan Hangauer, along with his brother Patrick Hangauer (bass) and another set of brothers, Brian Costello (drums, vocals) and Brendan Costello (guitar). The album was recorded and mastered to analog tape with Chris Crisci, of indie favorite The Appleseed Cast.The title track opens the album with a propulsive rhythm, jangly guitars and a subtle, catchy keyboard melody and trumpet solo. The standout first single “Drinking Binge” features a winding guitar line and catchy shout-along vocals that describe feeling old and no longer being able to keep up with the younger partygoers. “Colorado” features country-leaning melodies and instrumentation complete with breezy pedal steel. Another standout track, “The Cost,” is seven minutes long with a rolling guitar riff that slowly builds into a cathartic coda that drips with regret. Adrianne Verhoeven – formerly of The Anniversary – lends her sweet, soulful voice to the aching, “Before Our Hearts Explode.” The bouncy beat and infectious sing-along of “Eskimo Brothers” makes for yet another standout moment. “Fall In August” features rollicking guitars and a shuffling rhythm, while “Berlin,” a tale of long distance relationships gone wrong, closes out the eight-song album leaving you satisfied but wanting more.

Brendan’s descriptive and raw lyrical tone makes listening to Empty Moon like secretly reading your best friend’s journal and it makes for their strongest, most cohesive album yet.

Artist: The Multiple Cat // Album: The Return Of The Multiple Cat // Label:  Guilt Ridden Pop  // Release Date: May 21, 2013

The Multiple Cat is the Quad Cities-based project of singer/songwriter/producer Patrick Stolley, who released a few criminally under-appreciated albums in the late ‘90s and early 2000’s. Since then, Stolley began producing the live sessions for Daytrotter, of which he was a founding member. After years of recording other people’s music, he decided it was time to release his long-awaited new album, the aptly-titled The Return Of The Multiple Cat, out now on Guilt Ridden Pop Records.

Fuzzy guitars jangle alongside rich analog synths and combine with his catchy-yet-quirky art-pop sense on the album opener, “The Master’s Voice” for a modern take on scrappy ‘90s indie rock and twee ‘60s pop. Standout first single, “The Hill Part 1” features a hip-swiveling rhythm driven by a distorted bass line and highlights Stolley’s voice, which recalls that of Stuart Murdoch from Belle And Sebastian. “The Other World” is otherworldly with jabs of reverb-rich guitars. The album’s epic centerpiece, “The Flood,” is made up of three parts; the first one led by a rumbling bass line and the second, more ominous with haunting melodies and soaring synths and the third, with a revved-up joyous sing-along passage. Elsewhere, “Disaster!” is anything but with its room-filling vintage organ and poppy melodies. Another standout track, “Know Future, Know Past,” features an instantly hummable guitar line and some visceral yet easy-to-sing-along-with lyrics of death and regret; likely influenced by the deaths of both of his parents during the album process. “Vampire Bats/Mall Rats” is highlighted by a nervous energy and a fast-paced vocal cadence. The too-short eight-song album closes out with the intricate cyclical acoustic guitars and ethereal pedal steel of “The River.”

The Multiple Cat has returned with a set of songs that are so solid, it feels like they were never gone.

Artist: Man Or Astro-Man?// Album: Defcon 5…4…3…2…1   // Label:  Communicating Vessels // Release Date: May 21

Another ‘90s indie cult favorite, Man Or Astro-man?, has returned to Earth after a twelve year hiatus with their new album, Defcon 5…4…3…2…1. Co-produced by their longtime cohort Steve Albini and Daniel Farris, the album was released via Communicating Vessels, the Birmingham, Ala.-based imprint run by former Remy Zero guitarist, Jeffrey Cain. In 2010, the original lineup of Birdstuff, Coco and Star Crunch regrouped to play some well-received reunion shows then decided to record what might be their most intriguing album yet.

An oscillating synth line signals the opening surge of surf-rock guitars on the instrumental album opener, “Defcon 5,” that begins the countdown alluded to in the album title. “Antimatter Man” follows with a hip-shaking rhythm, squelching synths and fuzzed-out guitar freak-outs. The danceable “All Systems Go” is instrumental except for the robotic voices that intone the song title. “Disintegrate” stands out with a tumbling tom-heavy beat, a catchy chorus and some neo-psych-rock ambience that recalls The Black Angels. The quieter “Defcon 4” features soaring cosmic synths and a stuttering electronic beat as a slight change of pace. “Codebreaker 78” features a propulsive rhythm and shooting star-like synths that are perfect for a fast drive down an empty street at night. The guitars of “Communication Breakdown” snake their way around the blues-soaked vocal melody and standout track “Defcon 3” continues the countdown with reverb-rich Dick Dale-inspired guitars that rise, then crash like giant waves. The album’s catchiest moment comes in the form of the swaggering vocal melody and rumbling rhythm of “Arc” with erupting guitars. The album closes out with the atmospheric synth pads of “Defcon 2” followed by the buzzing guitars and rollicking rhythm of “Defcon 1” to complete the countdown.

The recent overload of ‘90s nostalgia including the recent reunions of Guided By Voices and The Breeders has been great and Man Or Astro-man? preserve their legacy with Defcon 5…4…3…2…1.

Reach DCP freelance writer Justin Kreitzer at JustinKreitzer@DaytonCityPaper.com.

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Reach DCP freelance writer Justin Kreitzer at JustinKreitzer@DaytonCityPaper.com.

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