On and Off the Record
Tall Tales and the Silver Lining
Tall Tales and the Silver Lining is back with a six-pack of indie alt country on its newest release. The band and the album are the brainchildren of singer and versatile musician Trevor Beld Jimenez. This is just the first batch of songs Jimenez plans to release in 2014. Fans of Wilco, Brett Dennen, Jenny Lewis and Ryan Adams should add this record to their collection. This should come as no surprise as Neal Casal, formerly a member of Adams’ backing band the Cardinals, adds guitar to “Always All the Time.” The song features layers of guitars. The acoustic strumming, slow slide solo, jangly lead and bass come together into a single sound.
The country flavor continues on “Hide Your Love Away.” The song puts Jimenez in the role of a happily infatuated lover: “You’re all I’ve wanted, what’s a boy supposed to do?” he asks plaintively. Jimenez takes the album and mood in the opposite direction on “So Stranded.” The track features Jimenez on the piano slowing the album down. There is also an indie current mixing with a strong folk base on the album. The opener, “It Don’t Worry Me,” with a heavy hook and interweaving guitar chorus, sounds like it could’ve come out of New York City around 2000. Despite the mix of styles, the songs form a consistent sound that provides repeat enjoyment. — David Heldreth
B Willing James
The Ventura County music scene is one that has of late been plagued by a dark cloud of drunken tribute acts, nardcore nostalgia, Tommy Bahama blues bands and “f . . . bitches get money”-mentality rappers. Impossible Human is that heavenly ray that slices through the fog bringing light back to the land. It leaves you with a million things to say, yet speechless. Ever since his band Shades of Day exploded onto the local scene, B Willing’s songwriting has been refreshing and inspiring, and it has only grown over time. This, combined with Erin “Syd” Sidney’s production, has bloomed into something unique and truly great. Impossible Human is, indeed, impossibly human, yet startlingly spiritual, and, dare I say, exactly what we need right now. Blending influences that stretch as far back as Woody Guthrie with moody Radioheadesque notes and lyricism that could rival Syd Barrett’s, Impossible Human is strikingly original. And while it’s delightful to listen to, somehow, through all the intricacies and nuances of B Willing’s writing, Impossible Human still rocks! It is an album equally suitable for a road trip, a date or the drive home from a long day at work. Whatever the situation, this record will make you feel good. The first time I heard it, I struggled to find words to do it justice. What else really needs to be said? — Bennett Cornell
In his latest release, local hip-hop artist Spinz has managed to create an auditory incarnation of the phrase “violently mediocre.” Now, don’t take this the wrong way, it’s a good album. It’s not great, but it’s something to download, listen to once, nod your head to, and then move on from because, as good as it is, there’s absolutely nothing special about it. Despite the album’s pre-millennial nomenclature, it almost serves as more of a mash-up of styles that dominated hip-hop in the early 2000s. That head-scratching “Where the hell have I heard this before?” feeling may present a frequent quandary during the listening process. You may find that it sounds as though Yelawolf put the brakes on his flow and started rapping over Flobot’s instrumentals. You may in fact find that you’ve heard every drum sample and pattern used in the album a million times before, but you still like them. But what you very well may not find in 1992 is something that grips you by the throat and pulls you in deeper, something that makes you go, “Hey, maybe I’ll show this to my homeboy tomorrow,” or even something that truly sets it apart from the cesspool of half-assery that we so lovingly call 805 hip-hop. Judging by what appears to be a substantial budget for this record, it’s a shame the lyrical content and songwriting aren’t better. — Bennett Cornell
Energy is the current that flows through the self-titled album from Oxnard native Spartacus. The album blends reggae, funk, soul and rock in equal measures. The opener, “Please Don’t Let it Get to Your Head,” is the perfect signal of what to expect. The song opens smoothly, but quickly transitions as the guitar turns choppy and frantic. A driven bass line pushes the song along, building all the way to the end. The group slows it down and finds its reggae roots on “11.” The song finds guitarist and singer Kris Simeon and bassist Phillip Federis alternating and blending lead and rhythm. Federis and Simeon have a give and take to their playing that makes you wonder what would happen if John Frusciante and Flea listened to more Bob Marley.
With Sean Simeon on drums, the trio forms a tight rhythmic core allowing for the seemingly fluid transition between tempos and styles. Each time the band hits a groove, it finds a way to pull you in another direction. “Ghosts in the Mirror” and “I Won’t Be Alone” kick things up, while tracks like “Lonesome Holiday” feel like a slow, sunny Sunday. Simeon’s guitar literally shimmers on the chorus of the latter song. In the end, “Sober” solidly anchors the album with a sing-along closer. — David Heldreth