Music

The Bygones: Circles

Jason MacNeil

The Bygones

Circles

Label: Derailleur
Amazon
iTunes

So where is the new home of country music? Nashville? Well, traditionally it has been, but it is more or less the pop crossover capital now. Texas? An argument could be made for the state since it's been home to a plethora of great country and alt. country bands. But in the end, the new home of country music just may be Ohio. Although last year showcased the National's self-titled album making some waves among critics, the New York band was originally from Ohio. Now this year another band is making a bit of a stir with an engaging and down-home country record that has as many gems as it does empty whiskey bottles beside it. The band is the Bygones, a group who teased most critics with an EP earlier this year with a cheap recording that showed the band's tremendous potential. Now with Circles, the quartet led by Bill Wagner has caused even more turned heads.

"The Book" starts the album and sounds like it's recorded on one microphone with all the musicians in one room. The mix of roots rock with traditional honky-tonk country brings to mind possible Tom Petty out-takes, but the band are extremely honed into the genres. "You were just a minor character in this half-baked stew", Wagner sings before harmony vocals flow over a twang-riddled guitar. It also has that ragged feeling recalling Dylan or the Stones circa the late '60s and early '70s, being as loose as possible without losing the beat. "Under That Spell" has a cheesy keyboard crawling through it, but the band pull it together in the style of alt.country all-stars Golden Smog. The guitar playing between Bill Wagner and Matt Wagner works well, but the only thing that tends to drag it down a tad is the opening line of each verse, which is a bit of a stretch musically. The song ends just at the right moment though, which isn't the case with most acts.

One of the strengths of the album is the consistency. "The Party's Over" brings to mind an early Black Crowes, especially with the guitar work and rhythm section. This is southern without being southern-fried rock, which is a difficult musical tightrope to walk. But the song throws you a curve by moving into a faster boogie blues jam feeling on a dime. Wagner doesn't have the pipes to adapt to the style, but the effort is memorable. The cymbal hits by Bill Heingartner only accentuate the song before Wagner goes into some Jagger-like rambling. The folk-oriented "Singin' to Myself (And It's the Middle of the Night)" isn't bad and has some fine guitar picking, but might be better suited down in the tracklisting, perhaps as the closer. "Burgundy Eyes" is a bouncy track with some harmonica, but has a slower tempo in the vein of Blue Rodeo and Wilco. The flow it has, like most of the album, is nearly effortless. "The Things That Will Hold You" is a bit of a soft song, a slow waltz ballad that reeks of the past. It tends to go a bit downhill as it goes on, especially the bridge that stalls slightly.

The stop-and-start motion to "One Last Look" again brings to mind the Glimmer Twins in their heyday, with a mix of roots and rock that Wagner nails time and time again. The simple guitar riffs here say more by doing less. It also has a minimal funk quotient to it before the bridge gives it a different, hazy sixties rock feeling to it. "Sunday Evening" has a similar guitar riff as the preceding number, but is toned down a notch or two. The tune itself is a bit of a disappointment despite picking up during the second verse. The guitar work here is also again stellar. Becoming grittier and more soulful as it proceeds, the song shows a different side to this bar band. "When you're high the future's bright / You live a lifetime in one night", Wagner sings before fading out. A Nebraska sparseness comes to the fore on "The Boarding House", moving between Dylan and "The Boss" easily.

Hitting the homestretch, the Bygones appear to have made a great album, but you'd have a hard time telling them that. Not resting for a moment, the Celtic-tinged "The Old West End" has some slide guitar and piano that makes for a quasi-revue track. The narrative here is quite colorful and descriptive, making it much better. If there's one little problem, it ends a bit short. The off-tempo downbeat of the title track brings to mind Neil Young in some respects; a laid back and relaxing pace that defies explanation. That is until the moody bridge starts up, but it's only a brief change of pace. Finishing off with another slow-building ballad, "Anthem", the Bygones haven't made any major miscues on this album. For fans of the Dark Horses or Americana, this excellent album will stay in your player for an extended period of time.

So far J. J. Abrams and Rian Johnson resemble children at play, remaking the films they fell in love with. As an audience, however, we desire a fuller experience.

As recently as the lackluster episodes I-III of the Star Wars saga, the embossed gold logo followed by scrolling prologue text was cause for excitement. In the approach to the release of any of the then new prequel installments, the Twentieth Century Fox fanfare, followed by the Lucas Film logo, teased one's impulsive excitement at a glimpse into the next installment's narrative. Then sat in the movie theatre on the anticipated day of release, the sight and sound of the Twentieth Century Fox fanfare signalled the end of fevered anticipation. Whatever happened to those times? For some of us, is it a product of youth in which age now denies us the ability to lose ourselves within such adolescent pleasure? There's no answer to this question -- only the realisation that this sensation is missing and it has been since the summer of 2005. Star Wars is now a movie to tick off your to-watch list, no longer a spark in the dreary reality of the everyday. The magic has disappeared… Star Wars is spiritually dead.

Keep reading... Show less
6

This has been a remarkable year for shoegaze. If it were only for the re-raising of two central pillars of the initial scene it would still have been enough, but that wasn't even the half of it.

It hardly needs to be said that the last 12 months haven't been everyone's favorite, but it does deserve to be noted that 2017 has been a remarkable year for shoegaze. If it were only for the re-raising of two central pillars of the initial scene it would still have been enough, but that wasn't even the half of it. Other longtime dreamers either reappeared or kept up their recent hot streaks, and a number of relative newcomers established their place in what has become one of the more robust rock subgenre subcultures out there.

Keep reading... Show less
Theatre

​'The Ferryman': Ephemeral Ideas, Eternal Tragedies

The current cast of The Ferryman in London's West End. Photo by Johan Persson. (Courtesy of The Corner Shop)

Staggeringly multi-layered, dangerously fast-paced and rich in characterizations, dialogue and context, Jez Butterworth's new hit about a family during the time of Ireland's the Troubles leaves the audience breathless, sweaty and tearful, in a nightmarish, dry-heaving haze.

"Vanishing. It's a powerful word, that"

Northern Ireland, Rural Derry, 1981, nighttime. The local ringleader of the Irish Republican Army gun-toting comrades ambushes a priest and tells him that the body of one Seamus Carney has been recovered. It is said that the man had spent a full ten years rotting in a bog. The IRA gunslinger, Muldoon, orders the priest to arrange for the Carney family not to utter a word of what had happened to the wretched man.

Keep reading... Show less
10

Aaron Sorkin's real-life twister about Molly Bloom, an Olympic skier turned high-stakes poker wrangler, is scorchingly fun but never takes its heroine as seriously as the men.

Chances are, we will never see a heartwarming Aaron Sorkin movie about somebody with a learning disability or severe handicap they had to overcome. This is for the best. The most caffeinated major American screenwriter, Sorkin only seems to find his voice when inhabiting a frantically energetic persona whose thoughts outrun their ability to verbalize and emote them. The start of his latest movie, Molly's Game, is so resolutely Sorkin-esque that it's almost a self-parody. Only this time, like most of his better work, it's based on a true story.

Keep reading... Show less
7

There's something characteristically English about the Royal Society, whereby strangers gather under the aegis of some shared interest to read, study, and form friendships and in which they are implicitly agreed to exist insulated and apart from political differences.

There is an amusing detail in The Curious World of Samuel Pepys and John Evelyn that is emblematic of the kind of intellectual passions that animated the educated elite of late 17th-century England. We learn that Henry Oldenburg, the first secretary of the Royal Society, had for many years carried on a bitter dispute with Robert Hooke, one of the great polymaths of the era whose name still appears to students of physics and biology. Was the root of their quarrel a personality clash, was it over money or property, over love, ego, values? Something simple and recognizable? The precise source of their conflict was none of the above exactly but is nevertheless revealing of a specific early modern English context: They were in dispute, Margaret Willes writes, "over the development of the balance-spring regulator watch mechanism."

Keep reading... Show less
8
Pop Ten
Mixed Media
PM Picks

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

rating-image