I'll Be Moe (Thick Syrup Records)
Besides co-founding the iconic punk band Half Japanese and organizing Shake More, Westminster's finest music festival, David Fair tells great stories. This two-disc set finds Fair telling 24 of them, many of them culled from his childhood in Michigan. In a droll voice over snappy background music and a smattering of sound effects, he riffs about pancake breakfasts, 4-H fairs, buried treasure, marbles, Halloween, snowballs, and various exploits. It sounds sappy as maple syrup, but Fair injects the proceedings with wit, an eye for quirky detail, and a sense of dramatic timing that places this project somewhere between Peanuts and This American Life.
Cass McCombsCatacombs (Domino)
Cass McCombs is the Roy Orbison of indie-rock. The singer/songwriter, who left Baltimore for the West Coast a few years ago, possesses a moody sensibility but exudes a good-natured innocence and mystery that, like Orbison, makes it tricky to define him. Although he drew comparisons to the likes of Elvis, Jerry Lee Lewis, and other rockabilly stars, the ethereal Orbison never fit in with that rambunctious crew. Similarly, McCombs isn't your typical indie-rocker, as these 11 songs make clear. They never peak, but simply unfold at their own pace, oblivious to trends and the whims of peers. On sparse gems such as "One Way To Go" and "You Saved My Life," McCombs sounds as if he's singing to himself, not some audience that includes you and me. While so much indie music these days feels over-produced and over-thought, this tender and mysterious stuff is just the opposite—it sounds overheard.
The Violet Hour
The Violet Hour (Creative Capitalism)
Local duo Andriana Pateris and Beth Varden play hypnotic psychedelia that's both expansive and reserved. Repetitive guitar lines advance steadily across these seven songs, as Pateris and Varden's vocals billow and swirl above the melodic drone. "Evergreen Cosmos" and "Southern Cross" undulate gently with a wave-like minimalism buoyed by hushed space. It's such a trance-inducing mix that when a tambourine shakes during "Spectres," the effect is downright startling. And that's the extent of the percussion, as this is a drum-free zone. Overall, The Violet Hour exudes blissful, unpolished warmth, thanks to earnest performances and Rob Girardi's unobtrusive production, which shimmers but doesn't shine.
The Violet Hour CD release party is at Metro Gallery on September 19.