Taking a Listen
reviews of local & state music CDs
Grant PeePles — Pawnshop
Ever just want to hit the reset button on your life and go off the grid? Grant Peeples (www.grantpeeples.com) did just that when he dropped everything and moved to a remote island off the coast of Nicaragua in 1995. Needless to say, things had changed stateside when he returned 10 years later and his new album Pawnshop contains the dark, pointed and often witty observances of an ex-ex-pat who’s occasionally reminded of why he left in the first place. It’s hard not to take a liking to Peeples gravelly voice and ragged, weary lyrics from the outset. Set to the full range of traditional Americana backing, Pawnshop puts you in the shoes of a man hurting in all kinds of ways — from the exasperation over this generation’s media-induced pacification (“Searching for a Sign”) to discontent over economic conditions (“Better Jobs Down in Richmond”). The album’s title track finds him straddling the line between a drunken lounge pianist and the guy who just sweeps up after the show, while he shoots down the Nashville crowd with the full-on trailer park Western swing of “Real Country.” Rarely does he delve into the quixotic balladry found in the majority of contemporary country and instead, he shoots from the hip with tales about true American heartbreak (“The Saddest Thing”) and pensive iconoclasm (“I Know Why the Poets Drink and Smoke”). The album is not nearly as depressing as all of this sounds, however. Peeples’ selfdeprecating inflection and guarded observations simply give Pawnshop a primer-grey coat and lets the listener pick the finish. Grant Peeples will be playing Tate Street Coffee on Wednesday and the Lone Wolf Tavern on June 13.
the Mountain Goats — Moon Colony Bloodbath
Do you front a band with several highly acclaimed, though relatively obscure releases and possess a small, but dedicated following? Are you looking for a way to put out a recording that sends that small, but dedicated following into a spiraling hysteria? You only have to look no further than the blueprint that John Darnielle has kindly provided you. As the only constant in the revolving-door, Durham-based outfit the Mountain Goats (www.mountain-goats.com), Darnielle has been nothing short of prolific since he founded the group in 1991. Every release is at its core a collection of puzzle pieces that fit snugly together and into separate, thematically-connected series. It’s all well and good as long as you can get your hands on every release. But what if you can’t? That’s the problem with his latest output, Moon Colony Bloodbath, a seven-track EP that was only released on vinyl in a 1,000print run. The album itself is a collaborative effort with John Vanderslice of curiously conceptual nature. In one sense, it seems to revolve around an interstellar organharvesting operation, but it also deals with world-weariness and suburban cynicism. The protagonist struggles to connect with others, inevitably through cannibalism. The gory details themselves are camouflaged by Darnielle’s jangle-pop vocals and downtempo strumming, however, along with layers of obscure symbolism that requires some prior knowledge of his songwriting tendencies to decipher. On its surface, it’s a chirpy and enlightening pop effort with clean production that provides an enjoyable listen. Otherwise, it’s a vital bit of any Mountain Goats’ fan collection, if you can mange to find a copy.
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