Smile Politely

B-Sides: August 2014

The Superior State — Four Walls

Those unfamiliar with Aron Stromberg will pretty quickly pick up on who he is when listening to The Superior State’s debut EP, Four Walls. The first song, “Half of Us,” starts off with a softly picked guitar that recalls the Laurel Canyon sound of artists like Jackson Browne, but the vibrato guitar that marked Aron Stromberg’s influence on Evil Tents’ Night Air on the Midway quickly comes in and defines the sound (thus keeping Four Walls from sounding too Eagles-y). “Half of Us” also sets the tone for the album with a relaxed vibe that stays just on the sober side of stoner rock.

The EP continues with “On the Highway,” a cool wave of California folk matched well with Kurt Vile/War on Drugs-lite lead riffs. The third track, “Not Going Alone,” is probably my favorite. It has more of a surf rock vibe going on, but Stromberg’s vocals add a dark complexion to the song, making it eerie and interesting until the chorus, when the guitar switches direction and lifts the song toward a lighter place. “Not Going Alone” is understated but intriguing, with a steady, interesting beat and complex guitar work shifting the aural landscape around.

The final cut on the album, “Here and Now,” is more reverb-drenched and harmonious than its predecessors, allowing the EP to end on an airy, light note. It’s a fitting end to a solid EP, the kind you want to listen to in a hammock on a sunny day. — Chris D. Davies

Feral States — Dark

Joe Meland isn’t your average local musician. By that, I don’t mean he’s necessarily better than or above anyone else around here, but his mind seems to work a bit differently when it comes to crafting his orchestral pop project’s music. Feral States — an outfit formerly known as Fauve — is a project that polishes up art-rock in a way that makes it appear much, much larger than it actually is. Drama is the key — and strings certainly help do the trick. With Meland’s almost These New Puritan-like vocal delivery — subtle, precise, drastic, and smoothing all at once — mashed up against almost-cinematic guitars and bombastic drums, it provides something much different than what I’ve heard in recent memory in C-U. Like I said — it isn’t average in that sense, but twisted in a particular way that is pretty gripping. Dark is a progression in every sense of the word: A progression of Fauve to Feral States, from Light to Dark, and everything in between. — Patrick Singer

Thirst — Pretty Okay

Thirst is an outfit SP took a look at a short while back in a past installment of B-Sides, and this time, we have Pretty Okay. This EP starts off with “Stages Three” — a very smooth track, as if it is something you’d hear on a movie during a scenic desert road trip in a convertibe. The soft drums and guitar being strummed ever so gently, then it goes up a notch in pace, adding some interesting variation right away. Then, a random switch to a hip-hop-esque beat to ride things out.

Moving on through things — “Vague Blur” threw me for the first 15 seconds or so, then the bass-heavy tempo hits. The shifts in sound throughout are frequent, and provide a legitimate variety within a single release.

“Pretty Okay One” really is just as it sounds — pretty, well, OK. The generic beat was too simplistic, and “Mind Desert” was straight up creepy, but provided something different that stood out. With a little bit of old school hip-hop flare, it worked for the most part. Things were back on track with “Was A” which felt like a television’s buzzing, as if it is on it’s way down. — Taylor Polydore


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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