Something I Can’t Control
There’s much control exercised on Something I Can’t Control, the promising debut by Curtsy, a Ventura-based quintet fronted by Crystal Napoles and Austin Knecht. The album roars in like a lion . . . or, more precisely, a “Liar,” as the opening track slithers into the fore like Downward Spiral-era Nine Inch Nails before taking a Siamese Dream direction. “Run Cold” switches gears, running jangly, Document-era R.E.M. licks before evoking a chorus that haunts like a specter. Staccato Pink Floyd-esque guitar bursts go off like Molotovs in the mid-tempo “Bright Blue.” Ethereal and nostalgic, Curtsy can sound as retro as the Vines, albeit driven by different influences. Across the album’s tableaux, traces of Joy Division and X (particularly with Napoles’ vocals on “Somehow”) emerge, as does a Shins-type energy via Knecht’s airy vocals. Guitarist Tamara Simons, bassist Kai Dodson and drummer Joey Felkins fulfill Curtsy’s full sound, which producer Jon DeBaun (a Mars Volta engineer) decadently milks. The confident opener notwithstanding, shining moments include “Animal,” a slow burn elevating like a stray helium balloon on the strength of Knecht’s singing and the expansive “Heaven’s Sake.” Something reaches its nadir toward album’s end. The acoustic guitar-girded “Sisters” is a pregnant pause that never pops. Well-placed on the tracking list as the penultimate cut, “Ringing in My Ears” is Curtsy at its most generic and obvious. Thankfully, closer “One Less Thing” saves “Something” from sailing into oblivion. Napoles and Knecht create an engaging duet, although Knecht has the vocal edge when they sing solo. Throughout, the two find different ways of bouncing off each other, culminating with the call-and-response verses of “One Less Thing.” Ultimately, “Something I Can’t Control” is a solid blueprint for a stellar live show.
— Michael Aushenker
Available on iTunes and Spotify
It All Begins
Not so long ago, Kyle Hunt, after a rousing outdoor set by his band, Kyle Hunt and the King Gypsy, climbed the stage’s rickety lighting rig, unbelievably with a beer in hand, and in his best Beavis and Butthead impersonation, threw up the “rock-on symbol” to the cheering crowd while he head-banged along to the band on the stage below. In many ways, the moment summed up the music career of the Ojai musician to that point — rocking shows and parties first, songwriting (and apparently safety) later. Fast-forward five years or so and Hunt, who recently turned 30, is a married man and a first-time father. Besides marriage and parenthood, what’s also matured about Hunt is his music, which is evident on his new band, Brothers Fortune’s excellent debut, It All Begins. Hunt’s songwriting has grown leaps and bounds since the King Gypsy days, from lyrics that have great imagery and tell stories to infectious melodies complete with three-part harmonies. As for the genre, it’s alternative country reminiscent of Wilco, Ryan Adams and the usual suspects, but there’re enough local references in the lyrics (driving down Highway 101, camping on Faria Beach) to still give it a California sun-drenched rock and roll feel. Stand-out tracks “And Then They Danced,” “Better Days” and “Trails of Fire” are easily the best songs Hunt has ever recorded and they show a songwriter truly coming of age. That’s not to say that Hunt is no longer the type of guy who would scale a lighting rig to pump up a crowd, but these days he would put the beer down first and write a hell of a song about it when he came down.
— Chris Jay