Dark Atmospheric Rock
Gubbey Records – March 24, 2017
Cat Casual is the moniker of Louisville’s William Benton; ostensibly, the Holy Midnight are the three musicians joining him on this cassette: Brian Foor (keyboards), Sean Gardner (bass, percussion, backing vocals), and Tim Pinkerton (drums). This is a full-length self-titled release from the group, shrouded in a moody, decidedly dark atmosphere.
The album’s opener, “Sending,” is the only track recorded apart from the rest of the album – it establishes a strong tone (thanks, in part, to some guest humming from Bonnie ‘Prince’ Billy) before Benton’s baritone vocals come in, ending the track with a fiery electric guitar solo. “Ladyfingers” is colored with a long intro of subdued bass, guitar effects, and soft drums that contrasts with a dissonant, angular chorus of descending chords. The very next track, “Mock,” opens with a lighter, shuffling beat strung together with organ, drums, and bass – about a minute in, the song shifts into a higher gear, making way for a noisy guitar solo. “Come Back” is the most straightforward track on the album, lyrically. Benton’s response during the first verse is a repeated “I’m not coming back” which is exchanged during the second verse for “I’ll come running back” – these verses are punctuated with bursts of weight and texture from the band. “Untitled” is the last track on the tape’s first side – it opens with a heavy, piano-driven beat that gives Benton a great platform to perform vocally. The final two minutes of the track are a frantically intense burst of sound from the band, complete with another wild, colorful guitar solo.
The second side opens with “And You Move,” a track of synth loops and a spoken word bit that sounds like a transmission from far away – giving a nice palette cleanser between each of the tape’s sides. “Wicked World” is breathlessly quick, and Benton’s vocals are mixed almost to match the force of the accompanying instruments on the song. My favorite of the album is “Mutadis Mutandis,” which opens with contrasting chords on the organ, tolling like a church bell, before being joined slowly by the rest of the band. The chorus is made up of the repeated “I’m bound in chains I hate to break, don’t want my place in history” – powerful lyrics that Benton says reference the deaths of people like Michael Brown and Eric Garner, who then became names of the movement seeking justice for their deaths. The album is closed by “Francesca,” a track with instrumental flourishes that give it an art-rock bent, and whose vocal delivery is not unlike Nick Cave.
Cat Casual and the Holy Midnight listens great as an album with a decided atmosphere throughout, a sound that matches the idea of a ‘holy midnight’ – the album is dense, dark, moody, reverent, and contemplative.
Tracks I Liked: Mock American!, Come Back!, Untitled!!, Wicked World!, Mutadis Mutandis!!!, Francesca!!
Ben Southworth – March 26, 2017 – Kenwick Place
New Wave(y) Art Rock
auralgamiSOUDS – August 27, 2016
It is really difficult to pin down the sound on this album. If David Byrne and James Murphy made a record together, recruited Colin Greenwood to play bass, and fleshed out the texture with keyboards and saxophone, it might sound something like this (maybe?). The first four songs on Silent Screen assail your ears with unrelenting momentum and sound – crunchy basslines, bright guitars, bongos, accelerating breakbeats, and vocals sometimes past the point of shouting. “Boy to Do” exemplifies this perfectly – it’s armed with an opening guitar riff that will undoubtedly get stuck in your head, and a bass that sounds like its powered by a diesel engine. By the time the album reaches its midpoint, your ears are ready for a bit of relief, and “Crystal Girl” provides exactly that. The song pumps along with a a quiet electronic beat, warbling guitar, and much calmer vocals that stretch themselves into beautiful falsetto, singing much more tender lines like “she danced right through my mind tonight” and “crystal girl, wont you dance a while with me.” The single, “Photograph,” follows directly after – a song that starts mellow and relatively quiet before growing into an angular, dense, psychedelic track drenched with saxophone. “Stutterstep” is dizzying in its combination of syncopated guitar and swirling synthesizers, and has one of the best grooves of the entire album by the time it reaches the chorus. The album ends with the grandiose, smoky slow-jam, “Babydoll,” complete with weighty drums and vocal harmonies as the chorus sings “you’re not my babydoll.” At just over a half-hour, Silent Screen is over before you even know it, but it manages to be absolutely unique and interesting from the very beginning – absolutely worth at least a few listens.
Tracks I Liked: Trouble!, Boy to Do!!, Crystal Girl!!!, Photograph!!, Stutterstep!!, Babydoll!
Ben Southworth – September 18, 2016 – Kenwick Place
Dreamy Art Pop
October 16th, 2015 – Winspear Records
Back in July, Pomegranates announced they’d be playing one more show at the Southgate House Revival after having taken a nearly two-year break. The show was a vehicle to release Healing Power, an album that had gone unreleased since it was recorded in 2012 and 2013, and was a long-awaited reunion for the band and its fans. Though the album didn’t get picked up by any labels back in 2013, it was released digitally this past October through Bloomington, Indiana’s Winspear Records and as a run of one hundred sparkling gold cassettes.
For those familiar with previous Pomegranates albums, Healing Power might strike you as a little different than what you’ve heard before. Heaven was a collection of ten pop-perfect indie rock tunes and Everybody, Come Outside! was an intricate art rock opera. Despite the fact that it listens a little differently as an album, Healing Power certainly sounds like a Pomegranates record – it’s moody, poppy, dreamy, and the vocals of Joey Cook and Isaac Karns are distinct. What makes this album unlike other Pomegranates albums, though, is its texture. Kick drums and guitars and basses are overdriven, warbling synthesizers are higher in the mix – even on the softer tunes, things are noisier here, and it’s great.
It’s tough to tell whether the songs on Healing Power take themselves too seriously or not seriously at all – perhaps they take themselves just seriously enough. “Friends” starts with the announcement “this one goes out to all my friends,” and feels like the perfect way for a band like Pomegranates to say thanks to their loyal supporters. My favorite track of the album is “House of My Mortal Father,” a grungy anthem about Cook moving to a new city away from home – it ends with a combination of shimmering guitars, electronics, and at their reunion in October it was choreographed with windmill strokes on the guitar. “Hand of Death” is a totally ridiculous song, especially because of the minute and a half it spends pretending to end before Karns comes back to tell you “first rule in life: you gotta make sure that you’re alive” and “you gotta let go of death (see you later bad guys!).”
As intense as those three tracks are, they’re sprinkled between much spacier, softer songs. “Constant Companion” is a beautiful, drifting track tethered by a steady beat as Isaac sings choruses of “constant companion, I wish that I could see you, baby, but I’m blind.” “Taking it Easy” is a smooth centerpiece to the album, and reprises the tune of the intro and outro tracks before it gets carried out by distortion and noise. Another favorite of mine is “Soul Crossing,” another gorgeous track that burns slowly and dreamily as Joey sings “I feel like I’m a soul crossing the highway in the dead of night / can’t see where I’m going, but I’m sure it’ll be alright.”
Altogether, Healing Power is definitely different than other albums in the Pomegranates discography, but unmistakably a Pomegranates album, nonetheless. It’s a more than satisfying way of tying up the loose ends of the Pomegranates run, and certainly worth the extra wait.
Tracks I Liked: Friends!!, Constant Companion!!, Hand of Death, Taking it Easy!, House of My Mortal Father!!!, Soul Crossing!!!
Ben Southworth – January 3rd, 2016 – Kenwick Place