One of the largest misconceptions about Salt Lake City, UT is that it is entirely run by Mormons (trust me: once I moved out of state, the only question I was asked more than “Are you a Mormon?” was “What’s your name?”). Believe it or not, it’s about a 50/50 split in Utah’s capitol city, and most of the Mormons there are pretty well-adjusted and approachable. The further South you get in Utah, the more dominant Mormon culture becomes, but even back in Salt Lake City, one of the most interesting counter-culture music scenes has emerged, with alternative publications like Salt Lake Underground (a place I used to intern for) showing the fascinating and sometimes downright strange pieces of art that SLC’ers like the great Trent Call make on a daily basis, while hard rock groups like The Animals Know blast their own sun-burnt brand of heavy metal just as the stable of artists signed to local label Pseudo Recordings take conventional pop and rock structures and stretch them out to their very breaking points. Venues like the backwoods-alley Kilby Court and the ever-welcoming Urban Lounge bring like-minded folks together to celebrate the weird and wild that Utah has to offer.
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Lifestyle‘s tenth track, “Dead Air” represented the final of the album’s hard-charging ultra-compact pop dynamos. Like “Slave Wages”, “Treat the New Guy Right”, and “Raging Bull” — a catalogue of wonders sharing multiple songwriters but all cut from the same cloth — “Dead Air” created its own world of characters and places, and condensed this multitude into a couple of minutes of electrifying, inventive, and deceptively intricate rock and roll. The song zipped the listener from Nashville to Paris, pondering the meaning of it all and offering libations to Hank and Jim. After this whistle-stop tour of the weird and the regretful, Lifestyle‘s penultimate track, the more downbeat and gentile “Ooh La La”, which is the subject of this week’s blog entry, begins the process of easing the pace of proceedings and ultimately winding the album to a close. It is as if “Dead Air” is such a rollicking storm of humour and sadness, and propelled along with such force by Tim Midyett’s high-torque riffing, that it takes the braking distance provided by not one but two tracks to slow Lifestyle to a stationary conclusion.
When Cleveland, Ohio’s own The Lighthouse and the Whaler released their first album in 2009, they arrived with a sound that was very much derived from what “modern indie” had become: buoyant melodies, lots of acoustic work, pointed lyricism, etc. The band, formed by Michael LoPresti and featuring his brother Matthew (as well as current members Mark Porostosky and Ryan Walker), had a live energy which was immediately relatable, but their debut album did what most debut albums did: established the group and their sound, but not much happened in terms of waves.
In our previous blog entry Lifestyle led us to the top of the mountain. Even paced and lyrically dark, Lifestyle‘s longest song, the monumental “Around the Outline”, is also arguably, for sheer weight, the album’s most rockin’-est. The shift to track ten, “Dead Air, which is the subject of this week’s entry, takes us — to borrow a phrase from “Around the Outline” — from a peak to meadow. However it is a meadow full of empty whiskey bottles, discarded fried chicken containers, and abandoned Cadillacs, a gonzo museum of classic Americana.
This is a “Then & Now” podcast pair: this conversation with Patrick Sweany from 2012, and soon a fresh chat with Sweany about his new album, Daytime Turned to Nighttime. Country Fried Rock has just returned from another amazing AmericanaFest in Nashville, this time focusing on the musicians who have previously been on the program and where their music is taking them now. We caught Sweany twice last week, with a full band and in a laid back, solo gig, where he continued to blow our minds with his versatility with his songs.