The Kingsbury Manx: Bronze Age

The Kingsbury Manx has twisted its sound in fresh ways over the years, but Bronze Age is their most adventurous album and their finest set of tunes to date.

The Kingsbury Manx

Bronze Age

US Release: 2013-03-05
Label: Odessa
UK Release: 2013-03-04
Artist Website
Label Website

On the surface, the Kingsbury Manx is a band built for today's music world. They're part of a thriving local music scene -- in the Triangle of North Carolina -- and they shifted four years ago from releasing albums on local indie label Yep Roc to putting out albums on Odessa, a label run chiefly by band member Paul Finn. It's a common, heartening story we hear of the resilience of local music and smaller markets in the face of ongoing major-label and distribution chaos.

On the other hand, though, the Kingsbury Manx are a throwback to pre-digital days, days of street-level promotion and, mostly, of putting out a record when you're good and ready. This is a band that takes its time, which explains the four years since 2009's excellent Ascenseur Ouvert!. That kind of time is an eternity in the digital age, as our immediate consumption of music has pushed us to demand the kind of output even Waylon Jennings and the link couldn't crank out in their heyday. But Bronze Age, the Kingsbury Manx's latest (and best) record finds no four-year hangover, no signs of stagnation, no signs of being overworked. It falls into none of the traps of an album long worked on and pushes their broad palate of sounds into new and fresh directions at every turn.

Some of the beauties of this record won't be a surprise, but that doesn't make them any less striking. The vocal melodies and harmonies are as impeccable as ever on the pastoral glide of "Glass Eye" or the sunburst shuffle of "Handsprings". And there are the subtle accents you'd expect, link a cascading piano lead or warm horns filling out tracks. But the album also moves into more hard-charging territory, stuff you might not expect from the hazy sway of this band's past work.

They've delved into more rock 'n' roll territory before -- see the guitar breakdown of "Pelz Komet" from Aztec Discipline -- but the turn here is different. If the album is titled after an ancient time, it seems eager to charge into tomorrow, with spacey power-pop numbers that inject the album with an impressive propulsion and volatile energy. Despite the mention of "easy-does-it campfire tunes" on opener "Weird Beard & Black Wolf", the album avoids such quaint pleasantries on "Future Hunter" a beefed-up song swelling with swirls of Moog and Wurlitzer. Later "In the Wurlitzer" takes similar tones into murkier, swampier territory, while "Solely Bavaria" spreads it out into a gauzy expanse of sound that mimics the wandering and exploration in the lyrics. These are all new tangents for the band, and they've of a piece with one another, a new muscle to the band's still sweet sound, but none of them tread the same ground.

In fact, it's that idea of what ground to tread that drives the album. It's easy when a band enters its 14th year to start talking about how their music addresses aging. But that's not Bronze Age. Instead, it's a smaller look at how we move forward day-to-day, how we recover from this mistake, or how we get through this day, or how we take in this experience. There's certainly error and regret floating around, the catharsis found, on "Weird Beard & Black Wolf", in when the narrator "rearrange[s] his face" is a short-lived one. "Handsprings", meanwhile, doesn't deal in the same drama. It admits to small mistakes ("I'll screw up and misspell all the names I knew so well") without giving into them, while still readying to "make some plans for ringing in another year". There's some travel as therapy here -- see "Solely Bavaria" or "Custer's Last" -- but it's also in service of finding perspective. These songs take stock of the past, honors its pleasures and account for its darker moments.

If there's no conclusion, the music itself seems to offer a sort of closure. That closure, though, comes in remaining wide open. Bronze Age looks over its shoulder, but for the last time, readying not to settle but instead for the next future to hunt. No wonder, then, that when these songs don't crunch with newfound rock heft, they churn with murky texture. "Handsprings" unwinds into a slow, boggy breakdown, while mid-album standout "How Things Are Done" stirs up an overcast, bittersweet atmosphere of organ and guitar layers that stretch to some sonic border way in the distance.

These are the new parameters of the Kingsbury Manx. They've honed their sound, twisting it in fresh ways over the years, but Bronze Age is their most adventurous turn yet, and results in their finest set of tunes to date. It's as meticulous and beautiful as past records, but there's an abandon to this sound that serves them well, that hints at the possibility the songs aim for, that reminds us of the hungry sounds of bands pock-marking the city with flyers before you could send emails, that show us the sound of a band doing things in their own terms, terms we, as listeners, can't help but agree to considering what they yield.


In the wake of Malcolm Young's passing, Jesse Fink, author of The Youngs: The Brothers Who Built AC/DC, offers up his top 10 AC/DC songs, each seasoned with a dash of backstory.

In the wake of Malcolm Young's passing, Jesse Fink, author of The Youngs: The Brothers Who Built AC/DC, offers up his top 10 AC/DC songs, each seasoned with a dash of backstory.

Keep reading... Show less

Pauline Black may be called the Queen of Ska by some, but she insists she's not the only one, as Two-Tone legends the Selecter celebrate another stellar album in a career full of them.

Being commonly hailed as the "Queen" of a genre of music is no mean feat, but for Pauline Black, singer/songwriter of Two-Tone legends the Selecter and universally recognised "Queen of Ska", it is something she seems to take in her stride. "People can call you whatever they like," she tells PopMatters, "so I suppose it's better that they call you something really good!"

Keep reading... Show less

Morrison's prose is so engaging and welcoming that it's easy to miss the irreconcilable ambiguities that are set forth in her prose as ineluctable convictions.

It's a common enough gambit in science fiction. Humans come across a race of aliens that appear to be entirely alike and yet one group of said aliens subordinates the other, visiting violence upon their persons, denigrating them openly and without social or legal consequence, humiliating them at every turn. The humans inquire why certain of the aliens are subjected to such degradation when there are no discernible differences among the entire race of aliens, at least from the human point of view. The aliens then explain that the subordinated group all share some minor trait (say the left nostril is oh-so-slightly larger than the right while the "superior" group all have slightly enlarged right nostrils)—something thatm from the human vantage pointm is utterly ridiculous. This minor difference not only explains but, for the alien understanding, justifies the inequitable treatment, even the enslavement of the subordinate group. And there you have the quandary of Otherness in a nutshell.

Keep reading... Show less

A 1996 classic, Shawn Colvin's album of mature pop is also one of best break-up albums, comparable lyrically and musically to Joni Mitchell's Hejira and Bob Dylan's Blood on the Tracks.

When pop-folksinger Shawn Colvin released A Few Small Repairs in 1996, the music world was ripe for an album of sharp, catchy songs by a female singer-songwriter. Lilith Fair, the tour for women in the music, would gross $16 million in 1997. Colvin would be a main stage artist in all three years of the tour, playing alongside Liz Phair, Suzanne Vega, Sheryl Crow, Sarah McLachlan, Meshell Ndegeocello, Joan Osborne, Lisa Loeb, Erykah Badu, and many others. Strong female artists were not only making great music (when were they not?) but also having bold success. Alanis Morissette's Jagged Little Pill preceded Colvin's fourth recording by just 16 months.

Keep reading... Show less

Frank Miller locates our tragedy and warps it into his own brutal beauty.

In terms of continuity, the so-called promotion of this entry as Miller's “third" in the series is deceptively cryptic. Miller's mid-'80s limited series The Dark Knight Returns (or DKR) is a “Top 5 All-Time" graphic novel, if not easily “Top 3". His intertextual and metatextual themes resonated then as they do now, a reason this source material was “go to" for Christopher Nolan when he resurrected the franchise for Warner Bros. in the mid-00s. The sheer iconicity of DKR posits a seminal work in the artist's canon, which shares company with the likes of Sin City, 300, and an influential run on Daredevil, to name a few.

Keep reading... Show less
Pop Ten
Mixed Media
PM Picks

© 1999-2017 All rights reserved.
Popmatters is wholly independently owned and operated.