'Tis the season for new local releases. The last few weeks have seen new albums by The Tryst, Marianne Dissard, and 2nd Grade Hi Five; this week brings us three more new CDs—including a new one by ...music video? that's reviewed in our Rhythm and Views section in this issue—to be filed under "local."
Ben Schneider is perhaps best known as one of the most in-demand drummers in Tucson (yeah, I know: All good drummers in Tucson are in demand), smacking the skins for Golden Boots and Mr. Free and the Satellite Freakout. But he's also the frontman for Otherly Love, for which he sings and plays guitar alongside drummer Bill Baron and recent live addition Clay Koweek on guitar. This week the band releases its debut album, Spit That Plan, on, I think, Childproof Vinyl/HangArt. (When I asked Schneider by e-mail on what label the album is to be released, he replied: "The album is self-released but sort of through the HangArt label and also Childproof Vinyl, which is the Mr. Free label. But I funded everything myself.")
If you've only seen Otherly Love play live, you might be in for a bit of a surprise when you hear Spit That Plan. When the band performs, especially with the addition of Koweek, it's a truly rockin' outfit. Things on Spit That Plan are more subdued, and the details of the songs come into relief a bit more than they do when the band is on stage. Another major difference in the band in a live setting versus on the album: Schneider's voice often swoops into a falsetto in the live setting; on the album, he sings almost exclusively in that falsetto, frequently double-tracking his vocals for maximum effect. The album also reveals that, aside from those distinguishable characteristics, there really isn't an Otherly Love "sound," as they cover an awful lot of territory on Spit That Plan.
The album starts with "Crossed the Line," a jaunty countryish number about betrayal rendered slightly surreal by Schneider's falsetto. Next up is "Swimmin' on da Ground," a swaggering blues-rock tune on which Schneider begins singing in his normal voice, then falls back into falsetto for the chorus. It's the first taste of his regular singing voice and it makes you wonder why he opts so often for the falsetto, which most listeners will probably either love or hate (it often resembles a cross between Danielson's Daniel Smith—especially on "Crystalize"—and a Muppet). I happen to love it, but there are moments on the album when it becomes a bit much even for me. Either way, it takes a while to get used to.
Another trick the band loves is, just when you think you've figured out the trajectory of a particular song, they'll throw a curve ball. This is especially true of the longer songs on Spit That Plan (four songs on the album cross the six-minute mark). "Just Like the Rest of Us," for example, which crosses the eight-minute mark, begins as a fairly standard mid-tempo indie-rock song until, almost three minutes in, it opens up into a section played in half-time in which the vocals match the guitar part note by note before getting a bit jammy. This changeup tactic is repeated on most of the songs on the album, and it very rarely doesn't work. It renders "Just Like the Rest of Us" a quick eight minutes.
One gets the feeling from listening to Spit That Plan that we're in good hands. Otherly Love's fully formed aesthetic tells us that they know exactly what they're doing, they're assured, and if someone flubs a note, well, that's just part of the charm. And there are many charms.
Otherly Love performs at a CD-release show at The HangArt, 512 N. Echols Ave., on Friday, Feb. 11. The Pork Torta opens at 9:30 p.m. and DJs will spin between bands. Cover is $5, or $10 for the show, a copy of the CD, poster, stickers, and more; $15 gets you all that plus a T-shirt.
In recent months I've told you about an ongoing project happening at the Red Room at Grill. From a past column, here's the gist: "The Red Room at Grill has begun a nifty concert series. Here's the deal: Three or four local bands perform on a bill together, and the whole show is professionally recorded by Original Audio Visual, a company owned and operated by The HangArt's Jake Renaud. Eventually, the highlights of the show will be released on CD at a show featuring the same lineup of bands."
Three shows have been recorded so far for future release, the most recent of which occurred last week. But this week, the venue will release the first CD in its ongoing series.
Live at Red Room Vol. 1 (self-released) was recorded at a show at its namesake venue on Oct. 1, 2010, and features excerpts of sets from each band that performed that night. First up is Lifers, a co-ed trio that turns in seven songs of fizzy, poppy punk that recall Superchunk's heyday. Though they start to sound a bit samey after a while, Lifers know how to play this stuff without (intentionally) appealing to the Hot Topic crowd. They're a little dirtier than that and all the better for it.
Next up on the CD is a handful of songs by Acorn Bcorn, the sister duo—Marina and Leann Cornelius—formed from the ashes of The Beta Sweat. The siblings trade off on guitar, bass and drums, with Marina handling the vocals, and the duo specializes in a brand of riot grrrl-inspired, skeletal punky blues. Part of the fun of seeing Acorn Bcorn is seeing the division of labor between the two—for example, Marina might play guitar, sing and keep a drumbeat simultaneously, while Leeann plays the bass and takes over percussion when Marina is too busy to do so—and that element is of course lost on the CD. On the flipside, it's interesting to hear these songs without the distraction of checking out who's playing what. The most successful songs here are the ones in which the tempo is faster, the guitar is louder and Marina shows off the breadth of her voice, which can become a potent bluesy wail at will.
The Otherly Love section comes third and, as I mentioned above, is a rather different beast from what you'll find on Spit That Plan—even though all five of the band's songs on Live at Red Room can be found on its album. Here it's looser, louder, and there's less of that aforementioned falsetto.
Live at Red Room saves the best for last. Lenguas Largas ranks among the best bands in Tucson right now and its seven songs here provide ample evidence why. Though there are unifying elements in their sound (Isaac Reyes' distinctive croon among them), there is no easy genre to tag onto the band, as each song exists in its own private realm. (I've referred to them as art-punk before, but that description sounds a bit more abrasive than their accessible nature really is.) The disjointed "I'm a Goat" starts out plodding, with Reyes' vocal melody mimicking the guitar, before unholy (and awesome) sounds are coaxed out of the guitars and it hits a full-on punk-rock section. It's broken up by an artful extended bridge with a lovely vocal melody before the destructo end. Meanwhile, "Yard Sale Heart," the first song of the Lenguas Largas section and one of its most accessible (and anthemic), falls more into the indie-rock spectrum than anything. It's one of the best songs by a local band I've heard in a long time.
A release party for Live at Red Room Vol. 1 will begin at 10 p.m. on Saturday, Feb. 12, at (where else) the Red Room at Grill, 100 E. Congress St. All four bands—Lenguas Largas, Otherly Love, Acorn Bcorn, and Lifers—will perform, and CDs will be available for $5. As always, admission is free. Call 623-7621 for more information.
Former Tucsonan and current Oaklander Nobunny, The Creamys (two-thirds of which are moving out of town at the end of the month, so catch them while you can), and Acorn Bcorn at Solar Culture Gallery on Sunday, Feb. 13; Snoop Dogg at the Rialto Theatre on Friday, Feb. 11; B.B. King at UA Centennial Hall on Monday, Feb. 14; 2011 Winter Hair Party, a benefit for Wingspan featuring The Tryst and Kevin Pakulis and friends, at Club Congress on Saturday, Feb. 12; Gabby Giffords Food Bank Benefit featuring CHAPP at Boondocks Lounge on Saturday, Feb. 12; Scape Therapy: A Benefit for Marc Lind featuring DJ Amril, DJ Hermie, and DJ Bonus at Club Congress on Wednesday, Feb. 16; Second Saturdays Downtown in various downtown locations on Saturday, Feb. 12; Kodo at UA Centennial Hall on Sunday, Feb. 13; Savoy Family Cajun Band at Suite 147 in Plaza Palomino on Saturday, Feb. 12; Julie Neumark and the Highlifes at Nimbus Brewery on Sunday, Feb. 13; the Brubeck Brothers Quartet at JW Marriott Starr Pass Resort and Spa on Sunday, Feb. 13; Dolan Ellis at Abounding Grace Church on Saturday, Feb. 12; Monster Pussy's two-year anniversary show with the Pork Torta and Female Trouble at Vaudeville next Thursday, Feb. 17; The Fisters and Fish Karma and the Love Generation at the Red Room at Grill tonight, Thursday, Feb. 10; Lisa Otey presents Hot Love for Valentines Cabaret at St. Francis in the Foothills on Monday, Feb. 14; The El Camino Royales recording songs for a forthcoming album at Plush tonight, Thursday, Feb. 10.