Smile Politely

B-Sides: April 2014

There’s a lot to like in We The Animals’ first release, Danger Demo, but its pretty clear this is just a sample of what this band is and could be. As guitarist Mark Wyman indicated in his Smile Politely interview, this three-song collection was recorded in one evening at Pogo Studios (RIP), and it kind of sounds like it. 
Throughout Danger Demo I’m hearing heavy post rock influences, as well as some grunge and some punk. Those aural combinations are not always working together to create a cohesive sound, however. Sometimes its as simple as guitar tone or just the panning on the track, but I get a bit of dissonance between the influences of the band members. The talent of the members is evident throughout, though. Wyman’s guitar lines often find that soaring quality you hear from Explosions in the Sky, Joe Funderburk really shows off his drumming abilities, hitting fills and high-hat rhythms that are complex and add depth and dimension to the recording, and Mikael Brackett pushes beyond just providing rhythm, giving the songs another melodic influence (particularly well on “Structures”).
What I don’t quite get enough of is Kayla Brown’s voice. Often the vocals are mixed a little low, sometimes the songs just don’t have a lot of lyrics, but no matter the reason, there just needs to be a little more of Brown in this. She’s got a spectacular voice and We The Animals need to find a way to highlight it as much as the other instruments on this album. I do love the way the band can harmonize, though, especially on “Dry the Flood.” Which kind of sums up my feelings about Danger Demo as a whole: there’s some great stuff here, but its not everything it could be. Considering We The Animals have only been a band for a (very) brief period of time, the great stuff is reason for excitement. Everyone should be interested to hear what they do next and see how they develop their sound. — Chris D. Davies


KULOOLU Records Comp — The Presidents of the KULOOLUnited States of America

The first release from this brand new Champaign-based label is a compilation tape of local and other Midwest bands covering The Presidents of the United States of America. Like the original The Presidents of the USA versions, each of the songs on the comp has that hot summer barbecue vibe, but the variety of the covers are as different as these bands. They’ve each got a unique take on their chosen song, whether it’s Emily Otnes’ adorable “meoooow”s on “Kitty,” Jeremiah Fisher’s not really even recognizable bleep bloopy cover of “Body” or Soap Scum’s alternatively titled cover of an MC5 cover “Kick Out the Slamz”. This light-spirited comp leaves us expectant for what might come next from Kuloolu Records (pronounced coo-loo-loo, by the way) with so many great bands on board. — Maddie Rehayem


Thirst — [thirst] 

No vocals? No problem for Thirst and their (?) second release [thirst], an instrumental five-track that dispenses with poetry and focuses instead on making everything rhythmically and tonally correct. Raw guitar lines, synthesizer snippets, and trip hop touches are anchored by a heavily syncopated drum machine backing track that holds things together. There are elements that feel a bit like a slowed-down Massive Attack, but simple, clean, and minimalistic, and the production is tight throughout.. Track three, “The Shaking,” has a few vocal samples thrown in, serving as another percussive instrument rather than a voice part. “The Walk” (track four) uses a Legend of Zelda-esque keyboard line that steadily threads through the track even as the tone of the song changes around it.

So… what are these songs for? That’s up to you. Check ‘em out. — Jason Brown


Kamila Glowacki, who you might’ve seen slappin’ some sweet bass in Kowabunga! Kid or Chain’s Gang, or playing solo shows, has put together a four-song tape of her own creation. Nectar is the full-band realization of Kamila’s twee influenced pop style. The steadily paced tape carries on through multi-tracked vocal harmonies and the occasional flourish of guitar solo. It’s unfortunately already sold out from Rat King Records, but it’s up for “name your price” on Bandcamp, and hopefully we’ll see Nectar playing some local shows in the near future. — Maddie Rehayem


Single Player — Are You There?

Single Player’s sophomore tape on Rat King Records is an expansion on the success of Could Care Less’s lo-fi indie catchiness. This time around Sean Neumann, the mind behind Single Player, brought twang into the mix on tracks like “Older” and achieved a greater depth of lyricism. You can practically taste the “Jelly” as Sean’s heartfelt lyrics create a sensory experience. Are You There? is a quiet storm — even at its noisiest, the music keeps its cool, but never fails to pack an emotional punch. Single Player has become something of a laid-back Wilco on this tape. It’s exciting to hear Sean’s sound developing into something much more singular than where he started. — Maddie Rehayem

B-Sides is a monthly article designated for local albums released that might get overlooked for feature articles, but are definitely worth discussing. If you’re interested in your band’s record being featured on B-Sides, let us know at [email protected]. Note: Because some albums featured in B-Sides are released at the end of the previous month, we sometimes bump them to the next month.

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