WEEKEND KICKOFF Kurt Baker at SPACE Gallery. CREDIT VISION FOR VIEWERS
SPACE is the place next weekend, as two anticipated releases see the light of day for the first time on Friday and Saturday. First up is Leftovers frontman Kurt Baker's solo debut, an EP called Got It Covered, featuring Baker's take on some '70s and '80s pop-rock favorites. On Saturday, BiMPy winners for Best New Act Dead Man's Clothes release their third disc (hey — thought they were "new" ...) with a masquerade ball and general outlandishness.
Do you have both two-tone shoes and some sort of animal head with eye-holes? Then by all means hit both nights.
The more important of the two releases is probably the Dead Man's Clothes disc, as it's both original material and dealing in contemporary musical spheres (side note: in addition to the nationally released Ryan Gosling project Dead Man's Bones and the Jack White vehicle the Dead Weather, I've also got local releases from Dead End Armory and Dead Season bracketing this Dead Man's Clothes disc. It can be hard to keep everyone straight). And though this is DMC's third proper release, you can make the argument that it's something of a coming-out party for the band.
Yes, hardcore fans have 2007's full-length Aplomb and 2009's full-length Apsis, but I think even they will admit that both were schizophrenic affairs, with everything from poppy folk rock and singer-songwritery stuff to electronic new age elements and crunchy, vampy guitar rock. While it's great for a band to show they're not necessarily bound by a genre and are malleable, it's also important for a fan to get a feel for just what a band stand for and are trying to accomplish.
This newest release, Ice Is War, a five-song EP, certainly shows lead-singer Don Dumont mixing up his deliveries between cherubic lilt and vein-popping angst, but it has a holistic approach whereby every song makes sense next to its brethren, with a prog-indie-rock aesthetic rippling through songs that work the loud-soft dynamic and consistently give you some choruses with which to sing along.
The album opens morphine-slow with "A Fire," with a cool segue into the chorus that splits the sentence "I don't need any . . . chances anymore," repeating the last two words with backing vocals. By the song's second half, Dumont is virtually yelling, but his vocals are moved to the middle of the mix as Eliot Heeschen's brash cymbals and TJ Metcalfe's clanging guitar surge to the fore.
That may or may not be on purpose. The production on this disc is definitely a little rough around the edges. (DIY goes both ways, though: Wait till you see the handcrafted CD cases!) The muted vocals on the otherwise excellent "Moving Mountains" do remind me a little of the first Voxtrot EP, but it also smacks of an unconfident vocalist, and I think the bendy lead guitar notes in the extended jam that finishes the song could benefit from crisper fidelity. Still, there are some turns of phrase here that need to be heard: "And I don't really want it, if you can really hold it/I don't want to try it, unless you think it's hopeless."