Queen City Sounds: July 2024 by Tom Murphy

Published Issue 125, May 2024

Bison Bone – 40 Grit

Courtney Whitehead’s storytelling on this EP is characteristically cinematic in its evocation of tactile details as they anchor the themes of each song to inner life. All five tracks benefit from an economy of songwriting yet hit like a complete statement about a chapter in working class life. They instantly depict the relatable struggles, joys, personal myth-making and events that lead to enduring life-long anecdotes that are the connective tissues of life. It is Americana in flavor but the kind that weaves in diverse influences, and the way the pedal steel and keys cast a warm and lively glow upon the songs is reminiscent of the bluesier end of Steely Dan. It is a joyful yet introspective set of songs informed by a gentle affection. 

Disappearer – s/t

The delicate textures and melodic urgency of this handful of songs by Grand Junction-based, minimalist rock band, Disappearer, sound like a free associating of genre elements that influenced the group over time yet make them their own. From the beginning a discerning listener will hear the influential touch of Mission of Burma, My Dad is Dead, FACS and Wipers. But the songwriting, in spite of the edge in the vocals, also contains some choice guitar jangle like a classic 90s indiepop band or long-lost college rock legends like Let’s Active and Game Theory. And yet there is a haunted desperation that pairs well with the spidery and luminous guitar work that sets this music apart from any obvious influences. 

The Drood – The Book of Drood

Listening to an album by The Drood is a lot like getting on board for taking in a left field science fiction noir that comments on the effects of technology on human society and consciousness, but is rooted in our individual and shared experiences. Nathan Jamiel’s often nearly whispered vocals serve as an insightful confidant in sharing tales of wonder, horror and cathartic transcendence as the songs pull the listener through expansively melancholic and melodic soundscapes that are equal parts rhythm-driven, ambient art rock and languid psychedelia. This album includes contributions from Randall Frazier of Orbit Service and The Legendary Pink Dots on “Determinism” who further accent The Drood’s already impressive mastery of musical texture and subtle mood sculpting. 

Spiritual Poison – Incorporeal

If Many Blessings is a more harsh and industrial side of Ethan Lee McCarthy’s exploration of noise, Spiritual Poison is radically different in its crafting of drones and atmosphere. Is it “dark ambient”? Sure, if the songs on this release that simultaneously flash into your mind are scenes from Baskin (2015), Leviathan (2012) and premonitions of the bleak future of humanity post-climate collapse. It’s almost more sound design than simply ambient. Distant, abstract metallic drones serve as the backdrop to post-human cries of labored agony, blurred out chimes, distorted dins, echoing rattles, pulses of scratchy white noise, mechanical harmonic backdrops, subterranean hovering, streaks of sorrowful, melting string sounds, and piano processed nearly beyond recognition all conspire to render this one of the most beautifully uncomfortable listens in recent memory. 

Taggart – s/t

One doesn’t need to have heard or seen Tokyo Rodeo and The Swindlers to understand where these four songs are coming from. Every track crackles with a nearly uncontained energy that seems to have been spawned in a youth playing in punk and hard rock bands. But the thrilling vocal harmonies point to an ear for a musical sophistication like a splintery, power pop version of X. Live, Taggart, as did Tokyo Rodeo, played a version of “Second Skin” by The Gits and that bluesy garage punk sound rages here in spirited performances. One of Taggart’s strengths is its frayed musical roots because while it exults in punk simplicity, the band has chops it employs with a paradoxically tasteful abandon.  

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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.

Check out Tom’s June 2024  install of Queen City Sounds in case you missed it, or head to our Explore section to see more of his past reviews.