Music Box: May 2013

 |  April 29, 2013

Mother Falcon – You Knew

Starting with The Polyphonic Spree, there was an early 2000s trend of American indie rock bands with more members than could fit on a stage. These so-called ‘collectives’ of often 20-plus musicians and singers seemed to use their size as more of a gimmick than an actual benefit to the group’s sound. “Welcome aboard, just stand over here and blow on this kazoo!” But sometimes bigger can be better. Enter Mother Falcon, a side project for a group of orchestra students, all of whom, one can presume, truly know how to play their instruments. They bring a grandiose sound similar to Arcade Fire and diverse song structures like that of the Dirty Projectors. A slew of horns, strings, and various percussion instruments appear throughout, but Mother Falcon retain a strong understanding of how to use space in their playing and spread out all of their musical gadgets into just the right places. The beauty and lushness of their songs can get a bit self-serious, but there’s also a sheer joy in playing that can be felt throughout.

Dengue Fever – In The Ley Lines

Featuring Cambodian pop-star Chhom Nimol as lead-singer, Dengue Fever has been steady rocking 60s-style psychedelia, surf rock, and pop since their 2003 debut. With a swirling guitar and organ sound and vocals in Khmer and English, the Los Angeles-based group has been responsible for introducing to the West the awesome sounds of pre-Pol Pot Cambodia. What was once homage became a jumping off point for continuous growth. On the group’s last two releases, Venus On Earth and Cannibal Courtship, they added elements of blues, lounge, funk and even Ethiopian jazz. Their newest effort, In The Ley Lines, acts as a sort of odds and sods collection of live or re-worked recordings of previously released tunes. There is a handful of new tracks, but the overall product doesn’t have quite the energy of their proper studio albums, nor as full a sound. It does, however, act a good primer for the band’s entire output, and shows that Dengue Fever is absolutely a band worth checking out. Highlights: ‘Mr. Orange’ and ‘Seeing Hands’.

Pharaohs – Replicant Moods

This debut album feels like a celebration of 80s and 90s dance music, largely leaning on old-school house and disco. Consisting of producers Alejandro Cohen, Suzanne Kraft and Samuel Cooper, Pharaohs keep a bouncy, upbeat mood throughout a record filled with handclaps, funky synths, and a good deal of live instrumentation. The only live vocals, however, are sung by Maria Minerva on track two, the stellar ‘Miraculous Feet’. There’s just something super sexy about the way she sings the repeated verse, “Boy from the street / with miraculous feet / I can feel the heat… rising”. The synth lines remain catchy enough in the rest of the songs to make up for their lack of vocals. Other highlights include ‘Syzygy’ and ‘Again’.