The state of the music “business” continues to evolve and fracture in ways that make HBO’s Vinyl, which lavishly presents the decadent record industry of the 1970s, look like something out of the stone age — or an unintentionally hilarious satire. The last few weeks alone have given us a bounty of unexpected releases — from Radiohead and James Blake to Chance the Rapper and Beyoncé — that continue to change the game as we knew it, from slow-burn tease to overnight surprise.
Beyond these high-profile drops is a seemingly endless supply of lesser-known but no less vital artists also going their own way. Seattle’s The Cave Singers released four atmospheric Folk Rock gems for a pair of our finest indie labels (2007’s Invitation Songs and 2009’s Welcome Joy for Matador and 2011’s No Witch and 2013’s Naomi for Jagjaguwar) before deciding to self-release its latest, Banshee, in February.
“It was both a creative and business decision,” frontman Pete Quirk said in a recent interview with Glide Magazine. “Ultimately, we work so much on the band that we wanted to take on full control of its future. From the early stages of Banshee, self-releasing was something we wanted to look at. As we moved ahead we wanted to be free of outside influence and let the record actualize itself without any interference.”
The result is a diverse set of 10 songs that move from the Black Angels-esque fuzz of album-opener “That’s Why” to the lush acoustics of “Cool Criminal,” which finds Quirk singing about a world in which his protagonist has three days to live. There’s a hypnotic pull to The Cave Singers’ songs, each propelled by guitarist Derek Fudesco’s circular guitar riffs, drummer Marty Lund’s grounding rhythms and Quirk’s modestly expressive vocals. The lyrics revolve around universal tales of longing and mystery — a timeless quality that seems natural no matter the era or mode of distribution. (Jason Garagano)
• Sounding like a soulful Midwest Psych Folk mash-up of Blitzen Trapper and Pavement if they’d all been steered by a love of Dylan and The Band’s Basement Tapes, Nashville, Tenn. quintet Blank Range — vocalist Jonathon Childers (who sports a “Seger Rules” tattoo), guitarist/vocalist Grant Gustafson, keyboardist Jonathan Rainville, bassist Taylor Zachry and drummer Matt Novotny — brings a lo-fi, high-energy, gritty garage approach to their rootsy Indie Rock.
Blank Range has clearly concentrated its efforts on the road as opposed to the studio. Its recorded output to date consists of the excellent Phase II EP and “Scrapin’”/”Before I Go to Sleep” single, but the band’s road exploits include opening for a broad spectrum of headiners, including Drive-By Truckers, Alice in Chains, Spoon and the aforementioned Blitzen Trapper.
Blank Range officially launched in 2013 when Rainville and Gustafson, classmates at Illinois’ North Central College, and Novotny and Childers, University of Illinois alumni, relocated to Nashville together. There they met original bassist and St. Louis native Aaron Wahlman and formed the band, releasing its EP and single within months of coming together. The following year, the quintet won a Nashville competition called The Road to Bonnaroo, a talent contest that led to Blank Range’s slot at the famed festival. At some point in the band’s recent history, Wahlman departed and was replaced by Zachry, and in between rigorous road jaunts, the band has been compiling material for a debut full-length, which can’t arrive fast enough to suit the right-minded among us.
Seger may well rule, but with the members’ varied influences (Bruce Springsteen, Brian Eno, Bill Frisell, Wilco, Neil Young and more) and piss-and-whiskey attitude, Blank Range may be his most trusted foot soldier. (Brian Baker)
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