Queen City Sounds
By Tom Murphy
Published Issue 110, February 2023
A Place For Owls – S/T
“Press Start” launches the album with what sounds like a sample of someone putting coins into an old video game and indeed doing as the title suggests. From there we go on a musical journey of seeking transformation through experiences and forces that are more than what we are capable of purely on our own. There are earnest questions, an acknowledgment of personal limitations and a trusting that no one person has to be all things to oneself or anyone else. One hears shades of Death Cab for Cutie somewhere in the songwriting but the band takes that earnestness and expert deployment of tight dynamics for maximum emotional resonance and puts it to a rich array of blooming melodies and sublime fades to tranquility. In aiming to find comfort in something greater than self, the arc of this album’s storytelling lands at an acceptance of uncertainty and of the very tangible bonds of love, yearning and emotional connection with the people in our lives who provide the only real enduring sources of meaning we can attain.
Donzii – Fishbowl
On its debut full-length, Miami’s art-punk dance band Donzii uses the concept of a fishbowl as a vehicle for examining social and political issues we all face in this moment. Is Donzii influenced by the likes of Bush Tetras and Pylon? Perhaps. But if so, also in the ways those bands make poignant observations on culture without being bogged down by negativity of the immediacy of dystopian reality. There is a sensuality to Donzii’s rhythms that grounds the music as its colorful and expansive melodies conspire to give life to hope and resistance in the face of the dark specters of oligarchic oppression and its attempt to choke the joy out of life worldwide. With each of the album’s 11 tracks Donzii evades being stuck in a stylistic rut with bold changes in sound palette and mood. In one song, it’s a pointed No Wave funk as in “Crash Landing,” and in others like the title track, it’s introspective art pop. More than any other recent album lumped under the umbrella of post-punk Fishbowl is a joyous deconstruction of the concept of genre.
Honey Blazer – Lookin Up
The dreamlike haze of this entire album seems like the perfect backdrop to its themes of taking one’s time rather than succumb to the culture of grinding and manufactured urgency that has become such a dysfunctional feature of American culture. The subtle and evocative fusion of Americana and psychedelia gives each song both a consistency and the ability to shift in specific emotional color and dynamic, so that while there is a coherent aesthetic here, it never wears thin its welcome. Its lyrics encourage a patient approach to life, acceptance of natural life cycles and a willingness to learn through exploration, because not everything is so obvious to you in life all the time no matter how much you think or work at it. Gann Matthews and Brad Grear appear to have found solace and wisdom in not always having to push but not being passive, and this record demonstrates the rewards of striking that balance and finding hope and a future in a path that is its own parallel ethos to the unsustainable dominant lifestyle paradigm.
Sell Farm – Double Life
Depending on when you checked into Sell Farm’s music you might expect to hear a strange hybrid of industrial dub and indiepop. Double Life is crackling with fractured and fragmenting catharsis. The title track is a pointed and thrilling scorching of modern economic reality in which people are pitted against each other and themselves while being expected to work themselves to death at jobs no normal person wants but often accepts just to survive. The rest of the album is a catalog of the perils and anxieties to which we are subjected to every day in America, and the music is like an even more harried fusion of Meat Beat Manifesto, industrial hyper pop and Atari Teenage Riot. Every song is like a thrillingly desperate mini-manifesto against the dehumanizing and crushing political/social/economic/ecological times that are no longer possible to ignore.
For more see queencitysoundsandart.wordpress.com
Tom Murphy is a Denver-based music writer and science fiction/fantasy/horror creator. He is also a musician, historian and itinerant filmmaker.