Queen City Sounds
By Tom Murphy
Published Issue 115, July 2023
Destiny Bond – Be My Vengeance
Excepting opening track “Chew” and closing number “Harmony,” all these songs are under two minutes in classic hardcore vein. And there isn’t a wasted moment in Destiny Bond’s exploration and confrontation of the constraining, orthodox, binary worldview of gender and how that mindset often extends to other realms of life. But the use of language and undeniable melodic hooks really humanizes the music even as it goes off the deep end of intense sonic catharsis. In “The Glow” we hear an endearing expression of how finding one’s community can enrich everyone’s existence in the line “the world was dark before but now we brought the glow.” Every song has its own identity and character and embodies that spirit without being obvious or contrived. Hardcore can be monolithic, but this Destiny Bond album has more in common with the diversity of style in The Shape of Punk To Come than the narrow range of the average straightedge record and because of that, its range of expression and nuance hits with great poignancy as well as power.
Kiltro – Underbelly
Chris Bowers tapped into a deep place in his consciousness in conceiving and arranging the ideas for the music on this album. It is clearly expertly composed with meticulous details but never once feels like anything but intuitive — from the textural percussion to the ambient atmospheric elements, the delicate elegance of the guitar work, Bowers’ own luminous yet often ethereal vocals, and winding synth melodies that swell and suddenly fade like a waking memory welling up for attention in a dream. Every bit of the song has this aspect as each is brought to the forefront of your attention in the mix, only to drift off as the slow parade of musical ideas and themes course through like figures in an experimental piece of cinema that is more impressionistic than figurative. And with a mood and spirit of examining the deeper significance of insights, gleaned from a period of extended introspection the likes of which were imposed by long stretches of the early pandemic out of which this batch of songwriting came. Kiltro pushes those nuggets of personal and spiritual truths as drivers of an expansion of what not just psychedelic rock or folk can sound like, but the form and structure of pop itself, so that the music has an immediacy of familiarity mixed with a fascinating mystique.
Robot Tennis Club – If These Walls Could Talk, You Wouldn’t Listen
These songs sound like a lifetime of having classic rock forced onto you and instead of rejecting it all entirely, you learn how to turn the songcraft and musicianly chops into a vehicle for commenting on relationships and identity from a modern perspective. There is a lot of hurt and frustration channeled into the performances and exorcised in the lyrics, at least a little, by the act of putting heavy feelings out of one’s head into a work of creativity. The self-doubt, the suppressed anger, coming to terms with your limitations, shortcomings and mistakes all find their way into the lyrics sung by Laura Steadman. And it is all given the welcome context of having compassion for the flaws and failure and set to wonderfully eclectic music that rocks hard like “Here I Go (Again),” sprawling into melancholic space as on “The Nut.”
Steady Circuits – Physicalia
The clarity of tone and arrangements of “Earth Music” is truly a palette cleanser for the mind to start out this album. It immediately feels like a new chapter for the songwriting of Mike Marchant whose early experimental and psychedelic rock bands sculpted a more maximalist approach to songwriting into heartfelt nuggets of great emotional power. The latter aspect remains here but every detail of sound is so well integrated and mixed you’re immediately immersed in a journey of personal rediscovery with a sense of what really matters, including a sense of wonder at life and the world when you’re not as derailed by the usual distractions. The percussive and saturated synth melodies that permeate each song should appeal to fans of Clark, early Washed Out and Black Moth Super Rainbow.
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Tom Murphy is a Denver-based music writer and science fiction/fantasy/horror creator. He is also a musician, historian and itinerant filmmaker.