News & Features » Cover Story

Public Record

A roundup of new recordings by local bands.


“I think the first song I ever wrote ... was called ‘Can’t Help Thinking About Me.’ That’s an illuminating little piece, isn’t it?” — David Bowie

Denali “The Instinct” (Jade Tree)
Liner Notes: It’s not just physical height (although the range is an impressive 5-foot-7 to 6-foot-7) that has made Denali a giant in the local music scene. The band’s first CD of gloomy rock songs took it all the way to the pages of Rolling Stone, and fan pages reciting odes to its sound are legion. Named after a cold and forbidding North American mountain, the foursome strive to thrill young audiences with imposing songs while chilling them with a cold, hard view of the world. Lead singer and ice queen Maura Davis admits she didn’t allow recent fame to cheer her too much and steer her from her purpose. “I happened to go through important moments in my life when I wrote this album,” Davis says recently by phone. “I had to choose which way to go and who to trust, and I made the songs very personal, maybe even more personal than the last record.” The title song from “The Instinct,” she says, refers to the state “between choosing to live and choosing to die, and not knowing which way to go.”
Release Date: Oct. 28
Performing Sept. 28 at VCU with Rainer Maria; CD release show Oct. 22 at Aley Katz.

“Rock journalism is people who can’t write, interviewing people who can’t talk, for people who can’t read.” — Frank Zappa

Spokane “Measurement” (Jagjaguwar)
Liner Notes: It’s hard to convince anyone who buys into the pop-radio aesthetic — contemporary music should be melodramatic and/or exciting — that Spokane’s hushed melodicism is worth the patience it takes to appreciate it. With a fourth CD on the way in just three years, it’s even harder to keep up with the output. At least the title of the new CD gives us a clue what to expect this time. Plan on songwriter Rick Alverson to meter out careful amounts of aching songcraft, but don’t plan on the reticent artist to explain it to you: “It’s more spare in places,” Alverson says, saying only one other thing: “It’s not a pop record.” Still, if you’re looking for beautiful, thoughtful slow rock, you’d be wise to pop “Measurement” into your player.
Release Date: Nov. 7

“I wake up some nights and I think, ‘Orchestral Maneuvers in the Dark? What a stupid name! Why did we pick that one?’” — Andy McClusky (Orchestral Maneuvers in the Dark)

Apocalypse Pow! “Smash the Superstition” (Pop Faction)
Liner Notes: One of Richmond’s few answers to revivalist post-punk and dance-rock bands like Interpol and Radio 4, Apocalypse Pow! combines rock guitar and keyboards with a danceable beat. Keyboardist Vivian Davis says the name of the CD is a translation of Voltaire’s proclamation, ecrasez l’infane. “I had this romantic literature course,” she explains, “and the professor would always say, ‘No one goes around these days Bible-thumping Voltaire!’ We just thought [‘Smash the Superstition’] was an interesting play on words.” Bandleader Dan Evans thinks its simply the appropriate answer to the cult of celebrity and fame, which, one has to suppose, are things his indie status requires him to be against.
Release Date: Late September
Performing: CD release show Sept. 27 at Chopstix

“At one time I had ambitions, but I had them removed by a doctor in Buffalo.” — Tom Waits

The Circuit Riders “Sun Moon Mule” (self-released)
Liner Notes: These musicians take their name and inspiration from a former local news personality called the Circuit Rider, who dispensed folksy stories and witticisms during the closing minutes of Richmond’s NBC 12 local news broadcasts. The band wears the same down-home grin while playing a pop version of mountain music, a sound some inspired producer might have come up with decades ago if he or she had found a way to combine the diverse strains of Hank Williams, Bob Dylan and The Beatles into one group.
Release Date: National release, Oct. 7., already available locally
Performing: Sept. 6 at Charley’s Stony Point Cafe; Sept. 11 at Poe’s Pub

“They teach you there’s a boundary line to music. But, man, there’s no boundary line to art.” — Charlie Parker

Brian Jones Quintet “Spell Canon” (self-released)
Liner Notes: Former Agents of Good Roots drummer Brian Jones is not content to be creative and experimental with a new jazz quintet that’s geared toward fans of Miles Davis’ more progressive stuff. With help from Curtis Fye on bass, John Winn on clarinet, JC Kuhl on sax and Colin Killalea on tenor sax, the group’s recordings are nontraditional as well, appearing in plain white CD-sized envelopes on simple CD-Rs. “The way I’m thinking about it is grassroots,” Jones says. “I’m trying to record the music and get it out there as quickly as possible. ... That’s the beauty of this new technology, is that anybody can do it.” After a slight pause, maybe to reflect on a recent trip through the local and used bins at Plan 9: “It’s one of the problems, too.”
Release Date: Available at live shows and the band’s Web site,

“I don’t even know my own phone number.” — Axl Rose

Cracker “Country Sides” (Cooked)
Liner Notes: Cracker making country music? Well if you think about the band’s hits — “Teen Angst,” “Low,” “Eurotrash Girl,” etc. — they were pretty much alt-country tunes themselves. So why not put out a whole album of them and hit the charts? Not so fast, Kemosabe. Most of the “country music” featured on this schizophrenic disc is not only over the top with camp, but filled with a throwback to country’s earliest days, when Scottish, German and Eastern European influences still stuck out like missing teeth. This is a highly listenable set that sounds like David Lowery and company have stopped worrying about making radio hits and started having fun again.
Release Date: Oct. 14
Performing: Sept. 27 at the Brown’s Island Homegrown Music Festival

“Who wants politics in music? I find politics the single most uninspiring, unemotional, insensitive activity on this planet.” — Adam Ant

Strike Anywhere “Exit English” (Jade Tree)
Liner Notes: Strike Anywhere’s MO seems to be: If the system ain’t fixed, don’t break out a new sound. The band’s politically charged sticks of punk-rock dy-no-mite on “Exit English” pick up where its first CD left off: announcing to the world that not everyone is content with the current socioeconomic order. Packed with the fist-pumping fun of screamed sing-a-long choruses, bouncy melodies and a relentless fury against the man, Strike Anywhere keeps the punk retaliation from getting too serious with an infusion of rock antics and signature pick slides. Pick slides? Somehow Strike Anywhere makes it work.
Release Date: National release, Sept. 30, already available locally
Performing: CD release show Sept. 19 at Alley Katz

More Fall Arts Stories...

Add a comment