Music

Kamikaze Hearts: Oneida Road

Startlingly fresh, real and unmistakeably passionate, Oneida Road crafts a new alt.country for the NASCAR era. These are stories about income-gap America, their acid observations and withering pessimism encased in soaring instrumentations.


Kamikaze Hearts

Oneida Road

Label: Collar City
US Release Date: 2006-09-26
UK Release Date: Available as import
Amazon
iTunes

Upstate New York is nothing like Manhattan... just ask Hillary Clinton. No, upstate is full of broken dairy farms and failed factories, trailer parks hanging on the edge of river cliffs, and sullen dive bars, everything just close enough to the great Metropolis to create economic friction. It's the kind of place where rich bankers come in and buy family farms, where the local convenience store suddenly starts stocking Beaujolais alongside the Slim Jims, where everything's more expensive but nobody's making more money. A hopeless sort of place, but lovely in its way, and maybe loveliest in the rain.

Kamikaze Hearts, a five-piece out of Albany, have somehow bottled that kind of beautiful hopelessness, embellished it with slide guitar and mandolin, made it sing and moan and bitch about life. Oneida Road, their fifth CD, is a wonderful record, maybe the best underground alt.country record you'll hear this year. That it's happiest, bounciest song is titled "No One Called You a Failure" will just give you an inkling of what you're getting into.

The disc starts with a count, a thump of drum, and a gorgeous lattice of mandolin -- that's Matt Loiacono picking out the high counterpart, as Troy Pohl sings in a wavery, care-weary voice. "Top of Your Head", the first cut, is a road song, as so many of these are, about a strained relationship sardined into a car as the miles roll by. First acoustically and later in an electrified triumph, the band careens through the song's chorus, a fractious juxtaposition of hope and realism that goes, "We're talking in the car about the good things we'll have / But today, you're weeping / Curled up in a ball / Just the top of your head sticking out". That song is a ray of sunshine compared to "Defender", which follows, all Palace-esque vocal harmonies and pallbearer-paced drums; yet even here there's a defiant uplift in the melody and the mandolin flourishes that intimates survival.

Most of these songs are richly instrumented, textured with overlays of guitar, bass, drums, and violins, elaborated with mountain harmonies. Yet at least once, the band strips down to almost nothing and becomes even more powerful as a result. "Half of Me" has the meditative darkness of Richard Buckner's best work. It pauses and starts like organic thought. Its modest instrumental backing seems an extension of mood. When the song builds up near the halfway point with a stately waltz-time orchestration, the added sounds only underline the self-contained strength of the melody and lyrics.

The disc's longest and, arguably, most interesting track comes at the end in "Guyana Central High School Class of '78", a rustically arranged ballad that, at first, might seem like any end-of-high school reverie. It's only after you've listened a few times and maybe checked the title that you realize the song is about the Reverend Jim Jones and his purple Kool-Aid massacre. "Reverend Jim, he spoke at the commencement / He was listing at the lectern in his robe and his sunglasses / He looked out on the class / It seemed like he might be wrapping up / So we call drank the dregs of our Dixie cups / And threw them down on the sharpened summer grass / Sat back in my folding chair and waited there for my new life to begin". There's no hint of a giggle, either. You get no clue from anyone in the band that they are not perfectly serious about the whole thing, not in the righteous shimmer of guitar and mandolin or the slow-paced drums or the revival chorus of "I'm so proud of all of you". They might be joking, but it's a buried joke, deep inside the song, and not something they're going to discuss with strangers.

And, in a way, that's Kamikaze Hearts, too, a band that you might discover and treasure and not want to let the rest of the world in on. A three-record deal with the UK's One Little Indian (announced mid-November) probably means that they won't be our little secret for long...so best enjoy their bittersweet heartache privately while you can.

8
Music


Books


Film


Recent
Music

Run the Jewels - "Ooh LA LA" (Singles Going Steady)

Run the Jewels' "Ooh LA LA" may hit with old-school hip-hop swagger, but it also frustratingly affirms misogynistic bro-culture.

Books

New Translation of Balzac's 'Lost Illusions' Captivates

More than just a tale of one man's fall, Balzac's Lost Illusions charts how literature becomes another commodity in a system that demands backroom deals, moral compromise, and connections.

Music

Protomartyr - "Processed by the Boys" (Singles Going Steady)

Protomartyr's "Processed By the Boys" is a gripping spin on reality as we know it, and here, the revolution is being televised.

Music

Go-Go's Bassist Kathy Valentine Is on the "Write" Track After a Rock-Hard Life

The '80s were a wild and crazy time also filled with troubles, heartbreak and disappointment for Go-Go's bass player-guitarist Kathy Valentine, who covers many of those moments in her intriguing dual project that she discusses in this freewheeling interview.

Music

New Brain Trajectory: An Interview With Lee Ranaldo and Raül Refree

Two guitarists, Lee Ranaldo and Raül Refree make an album largely absent of guitar playing and enter into a bold new phase of their careers. "We want to take this wherever we can and be free of genre restraints," says Lee Ranaldo.

Books

'Trans Power' Is a Celebration of Radical Power and Beauty

Juno Roche's Trans Power discusses trans identity not as a passageway between one of two linear destinations, but as a destination of its own.

Music

Yves Tumor Soars With 'Heaven to a Tortured Mind'

On Heaven to a Tortured Mind, Yves Tumor relishes his shift to microphone caressing rock star. Here he steps out of his sonic chrysalis, dons some shiny black wings and soars.

Music

Mike Patton and Anthony Pateras' tētēma Don't Hit the Mark on 'Necroscape'

tētēma's Necroscape has some highlights and some interesting ambiance, but ultimately it's a catalog of misses for Mike Patton and Anthony Pateras.

Music

M. Ward Offers Comforting Escapism on 'Migration Stories'

Although M. Ward didn't plan the songs on Migration Stories for this pandemic, they're still capable of acting as a balm in these dark hours.

Music

Parsonsfield Add Indie Pop to Their Folk on 'Happy Hour on the Floor'

Happy Hour on the Floor is a considerable departure from Parsonsfield's acclaimed rustic folk sound signaling their indie-pop orientation. Parsonsfield remind their audience to bestow gratitude and practice happiness: a truly welcomed exaltation.

Music

JARV IS... - "House Music All Night Long" (Singles Going Steady)

"House Music All Night Long" is a song our inner, self-isolated freaks can jive to. JARV IS... cleverly captures how dazed and confused some of us may feel over the current pandemic, trapped in our homes.

Music

All Kinds of Time: Adam Schlesinger's Pursuit of Pure, Peerless Pop

Adam Schlesinger was a poet laureate of pure pop music. There was never a melody too bright, a lyrical conceit too playfully dumb, or a vibe full of radiation that he would shy away from. His sudden passing from COVID-19 means one of the brightest stars in the power-pop universe has suddenly dimmed.

Music

Folkie Eliza Gilkyson Turns Up the Heat on '2020'

Eliza Gilkyson aims to inspire the troops of resistance on her superb new album, 2020. The ten songs serve as a rallying cry for the long haul.

Music

Human Impact Hit Home with a Seismic First Album From a Veteran Lineup

On their self-titled debut, Human Impact provide a soundtrack for this dislocated moment where both humanity and nature are crying out for relief.

Music

Monophonics Are an Ardent Blast of True Rock 'n' Soul on 'It's Only Us'

The third time's the charm as Bay Area soul sextet Monophonics release their shiniest record yet in It's Only Us.

Film

'Slay the Dragon' Is a Road Map of the GOP's Methods for Dividing and Conquering American Democracy

If a time traveler from the past wanted to learn how to subvert democracy for a few million bucks, gerrymandering documentary Slay the Dragon would be a superb guide.

Music

Bobby Previte / Jamie Saft / Nels Cline: Music from the Early 21st Century

A power-trio of electric guitar, keyboards, and drums takes on the challenge of free improvisation—but using primarily elements of rock and electronica as strongly as the usual creative music or jazz. The result is focused.

Books

Does Inclusivity Mean That Everyone Does the Same Thing?

What is the meaning of diversity in today's world? Russell Jacoby raises and addresses some pertinent questions in his latest work, On Diversity.

Reviews
Collapse Expand Reviews
Features
Collapse Expand Features
PM Picks
Collapse Expand Pm Picks

© 1999-2020 PopMatters.com. All rights reserved.
PopMatters is wholly independent, women-owned and operated.