Skinny Kids & Sloe-Eyed 7" Single // Self-released // Out February 4
Fuck music critic hyperbole, Jerid Morris' band, lyrics and city-billy pine deliver reflections on the South and one young man's maturation in it on a plane of endearment that few meet. The unfortunate reality is that in Texas, or at least in the city haunts that El Campo find themselves entertaining in, nobody wants to hear a "nobody" commiserate on 30-some-odd years of real-ass personal shit, at least no one under 25. For everyone else who is not completely opposed to the idea of boo-hoo grass country-emo, Morris is, for my money, something special.
From his Muldoon days, a San Antonio group that had a modest amount of success volleying themselves up and down I-35, Morris has had a taut talent for melody and wordplay; gifts of a country music rearing. How these things come across in the settings the band find themselves performing in (that don't serve French pastries and Fair Trade, organic, gluten-free coffee) is reflected in things like their Facebook likes. It's modest.
The "Skinny Kids" single is a continuation of the road that El Campo began their trek down with last year's Remember and with Faux Fur before that: a dandelion-lined stretch, beaten into two dusty lanes like a worrier's brow. It's not a drastic departure from their wheelhouse because, unlike so many bands, El Campo is at the helm of something completely their own. If and when people get hip to diary entry banjo tunes, Tuck Everlasting country, hopefully, the hard work that Morris and El Campo have put into their three-part harmony western nostalgia gospels will see them included in the New Romantic movement of restlessly maturing hicksters. Forty-four jalapeños. – Travis Buffkin
Elsewhere // Self-released
Out January 15
YesBodyElse, the art-car vehicle for Matthew Rose, is certainly a record of broad scope. Few musical stones are left unturned. From the provincial opening clip of the Spurs' 2014 Championship game that ushers the smorgasbord in, followed by the Graceland/Rusted Root vibe of opening track "Smooth Sailing," Elsewhere is absolutely a Southtown party record, with the liner notes to prove it. The album never takes itself too seriously, and for that, I postponed microwaving it. The songwriting is absolutely there: minor key tunes perk up to their relative major for sonic trips to thee auld ren faire, or a skip around the maypole ("You Don't Know Anything About Heartbreak"), the fiddle-and-steel-driven take on "Hopelessly Devoted to You," in this case, "I Always Cry at Weddings," would fit right in the country-western sequel to Grease, wherein Danny leaves Sandy at the altar for Debra Winger.
Perhaps the most common thread throughout an album that features such disparate entries as an alt-rock jammer ("Spin"); a Portishead cover, and the only track wherein Rose's camp counselor vocals, round as a bubbling, roasting marshmallow, don't turn me off; a dub all-star throwaway ("Skunk"); and a horn-y parade track (Hoagy Carmichael's "Washroom Blues") is the folk-country fiddlin' around done on square dancer "Keep Yourself Busy," standout "Bolt From the Blue," country duet "HWY 90" and the aforementioned "...Weddings."
Rose is certainly no novice when it comes to composition and it is precisely the hodgepodge nature of Elsewhere's tunes — most of them containing several genres within themselves — that illustrate his command of songwriting; he should write for the theater. For me, they'd just sound better emanating from another set of pipes. – TB
Live in London // Pure Pop For Now People
Out November 22, 2015
Like a time-machine that accidentally takes you back to the most excruciatingly awkward moment of your adolescence, Live in London, the latest effort from SA husband and wife electro-pop duo Hyperbubble, is equal parts exhilarating and painful. On the one hand, this is the best we've heard from the pair. In the live setting, with the studio veneer stripped off, Hyperbubble's robo-pop, disco-punk shtick feels slightly more inviting and certainly more visceral. Plus, as a de facto greatest hits album, Live in London finds the act putting forth the best material from its four LPs and plethora of EPs and miscellaneous releases. I also imagine that, like most of Hyperbubble's odd and energetic performances, this thing was fun to be a part of in person. Unfortunately, the songs here come off as tinny and a tad hollow, like off-kilter caricatures of real songs. That said, you can certainly appreciate what's best about Hyperbubble on the album's finest track "Kinky," which sounds like a gritty take on The Eurythmics by way of Devo. – James Courtney