Austin CD reviews: Quin Galavis, Pure X, Mr. Lewis and the Funeral 5
Recent albums from Austin-based bands include a rocker turned singer/songwriter; a psychedelic trio turning some heads nationally; and dark and funny tales of self-destruction.
'Should Have Known You'
At first glance, it's kind of hard to believe that Quin Galavis, whose other band, the Dead Space, deals in dark, electric psychedelia, would switch gears so dramatically. On his new solo album, "Should Have Known You," Galavis trades in growling, angry vocals and nods to metal for acoustic guitars, strings and a straightforward, singer-songwriter style. The result is one of the strongest releases out of Austin so far this year. It's also a pretty convincing argument for other musicians to dabble in their own bit of genre-jumping.
From the beginning, Galavis makes it clear that he's not interested in singing in riddles. "Your Home is Clean" has the feel of an Irish folk ballad, energized with simple, direct storytelling ("you bought this place at a discount price/you cleaned it up, you made it nice"). He also has a sharp ear when it comes to using contrasts to his advantage. Songs like "Little Toby," where Galavis is resigned to a sad world while the band offers up something akin to a 1960s pop shuffle, or "Mary," with vocals that shift from a Doors-like dirge to a much more upbeat chorus, prevent the album from falling into the trap of having every song sound like the one before.
That variety also takes the form of subtle touches here and there throughout the album. On "Crooked Deals," upper register vocals recall spacey folk rockers Band of Horses, and the pedal steel guitar on "What the Soul Takes" adds a layer of country that's not heard elsewhere. The strings also play a key role, especially on "Fate Walks Slow," where a cello drives the acoustic psych rock forward. It's that willingness to experiment that sets the album apart.
Quin Galavis plays July 17 at Antone's with Hello Lovers and Twilight Hotel (antones.net).
A lot of recordings that emerge from the insanely broad world of experimental/electronic/psychedelic music are defined by production, with layer upon layer of synth effects and computer-generated sounds, even when the overall feel of a record is fuzzy and lo-fi. Austin-based Pure X, the trio of Nate Grace, Jesse Jenkins and Austin Youngblood (who formerly called themselves Pure Ecstasy), avoid this on their debut, "Pleasure," by sticking with a more traditional rock instrumentation, recording themselves live in the studio and not overdubbing anything. From the first track ("Heavy Air") on, the album sounds as if it could have happened onstage, with the three members taking cues from one another as they wander slowly through their spacey universe.
For the most part, it's a good decision. The falsetto vocals on "Easy" might be mistaken for something from Jim James of My Morning Jacket if the song weren't submerged in a cloud of haze. What we get instead is a combination of the two styles, and it works, though it could do without some of the microphone feedback that they chose to leave in toward the end. Elsewhere, the more accessible moments of "Pleasure" — the pop of "Voices," held down by a new wave bassline, and the surf-rock groove of "Half Here," which winds up in a fog of distortion — represent the best moments on the album. Both have more energy than the more abstract "Surface," which gets a little lost in the background, or the title track, which, at a minute and a half, feels a little too much like a spur-of-the-moment jam. That is not to say that stuff is bad, it just takes a little bit more work to appreciate.
Mr. Lewis and the Funeral 5
"There's murder and cheap canned beer all along the highway," Gregory Lewis sings at the start of "I Found Love on the Highway," the second track off the latest from Mr. Lewis and the Funeral 5. The line sets the tone for the rest of the album, a diabolical and darkly humorous soundtrack for a road trip to hell (which isn't going too well, as he says in the chorus of "Through the Morning").
That road is paved with lewd Tootsie Pop jokes ("how many drinks does it take...") and the slightly more serious tales of self-destruction on "Villa Nocturne." There's also a gypsy-punk cover of the Kinks' "Alcohol." It's a edgier take on the original, which seems like it could have been written for Lewis' frantic and raspy vocals.
"Delirium Tremendous" is out July 26. Their CD release party is Aug. 6 at the Scoot Inn.