taking a listen
reviews of local & state music CDs
Megafaun — Gather, Form & Fly With the indie pop-listening world’s predilection to mess the bed over anything unusual and ostensibly inaccessible to the casual music fan (see: “hip”), the critical success of Raleigh transplant and DeYarmond Edison offshoot Megafaun (www.myspace.com/megafaun) should come as no surprise. Their 2007 debut Bury the Square fit that profile impeccably and to those who enjoyed the aimless blend of roots-country, pop harmonies and shapeless abstractness, their much-anticipated follow-up Gather, Form & Fly will do nothing to disappoint. While former cohort Bon Iver enjoys his own escalating popularity from one arresting release after another, the Cook Brothers and drummer Joe Esterlund should at the very least be given praise for deft ambition. Gather, Form & Fly tries its hardest to be so many things, striking off on so many tangents as to radiate a charmingly disjointed aura. From a strictly roots perspective, it is assured to try the patience of most country aficionados. Megafaun has a propensity to shift from harmonydrenched folksiness (“Solid Ground”) to somewhat tedious ambient collages (“The Darkest Hour”), sometimes within the course of a single track. “Columns” transforms from a worldbeatladen piece that would sound at home on Paul Simon’s Surprise, before they a flip the switch into Robin Rimbaud territory. It can be tedious and frustrating at times, especially when looking for unfettered consumption of their twangy barbershop vocals and New Country picking. The band finds its real sweet spot on tracks like “Kaufman’s Ballad,” a delicate tryst with CSNY-influenced lyrical imagery, and the sparse constructions of “Tides.” It’s a highly ambitious effort all around, but one that also is not without its stumbles.
Daughtry — Leave This Town In a shocking turn of events, Chris Daughtry (www.myspace.com/daughtry) has apparently abandoned the paint-by-numbers rock formula that earned him multi-platinum status at the expense of artistic integrity in favor of a more thoughtful, contemplative approach with his sophomore effort. Did that sound convincing? I didn’t think so either. There was plenty to hate about his self-titled debut despite its commercial success, the hackneyed riffs and the clichéd songwriting for starters, and even though that MO wasn’t necessarily abandoned for Leave This Town, the addition of a regular band (rather than a cobbled-together group of session players) has helped his cause immensely. Oh, it’s still extremely radio-friendly, and I write that with an elitist sneer, but there are (a few) bright moments on an otherwise disposable effort built on relationship melodrama and uninteresting guitar work. Co-written by Vince Gill, “Tennessee Line” is a blatant crossover country attempt, but it’s one built on strong melodies and his excellent voice is subdued enough that it isn’t comically overpowering, as is the Daughtry hallmark. If this one catches on over at CMT, expect to see him donning a cowboy hat and plaid shirt on the cover of his next album. Then there’s the bad — nearly the rest of the album. With strained romantic relationships being the album’s prevailing theme, most of the hooks and choruses range from mildly cheesy (“In the middle of September, we still play out in the rain/ nothing to lose but everything to gain” on “September”) to pathetically bad (“if you strike the match, you’re bound to feel the flame” on “Learn My Lesson”). There’s not an especially long shelf life for “American Idol” also-rans and if Daughtry doesn’t cut loose from the assembly line and sit down with a couple of Jim Lauderdale or Steve Earle records, he’ll soon find his product spoiled.
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