Hearsay: Wednesday, July 18, 2007
On the Horizon

One of the many (two or three) perks of being a vaunted (unknown) music critic for a million-plus-circulation magazine (Fort Worth Weekly) is getting to hear new stuff before everyone else (my friends). It just comes pouring in, and there’s no way to keep up, which is why, well, stuff falls through the cracks. Good stuff, too, sometimes. Of the handful of new things that have popped up in my mailbox — demos, albums, e.p.’s, whatever — there are a few that I’m stoked about and that you would do well to check out. One is from the cut*off, a Fort Worth quartet that’s been thick in the scene for years now but that, intentionally or not, has a low profile. Based on a rough mix, the as-of-yet-unnamed album is roots rock with a staunchly ’60s vibe and ’90s angst. There are a lot of soft, melancholy, Led Zeppelin-ish breakdowns (listen for “Tangerine” on “Better Off Dead”), light-hearted Beatles-esque stomps, hand-claps, twangy, Byrds-ish guitar melodies, acoustic strumming, strings (not sure if they’re real or synth), sleigh bells, snappy beats, and catchy melodies. Also, frontman Kyle Barnhill’s voice is nicely disaffected, appropriately dazed, and somewhat groggy throughout. (Here’s an interesting little tidbit: Any idea why one of the weaker tracks, “Shanghaied,” is also one of the easiest to imagine on college radio? Anyway.) The album should be out soon — don’t ask me exactly when — and I recommend it for fans of superlative, rootsy indie-rock and also of The Brian Jonestown Massacre and Black Rebel Motorcycle Club. The guys in BRMC may be cuter, but, in my opinion, they aren’t fit to tie the cut*off’s Chuck Taylors. See for yourself in Dallas this weekend: On Friday, the Fort Worthians play Club Dada (2720 Elm St., 214-742-3400), and on Saturday, the Barley House (5612 Yale St., 214-824-0306). Visit MySpace.com/TheCutOff. Here’s another good new record: Engine of the Ocean’s Spill Heartache into Wine. Recorded handsomely at First Street Audio (on Bluebonnet Circle near TCU), the disc is only three songs long but manages to deliver a literary novel’s worth of epic density. The title track is an odd blend of ’80s synth-rock and contemporary Triple-A, kind of like an imaginary duet by Maroon 5 and A Flock of Seagulls. Twinkling guitar notes dance across a sweeping bed of synthesizers and a driving rhythm, and co-songwriter David Maverick’s vocals are anguished yet masculine — he may be spilling his heartache into wine, the song says, but he ain’t parting with his dignity (or his Y-chromosomes). The other two tracks — “Move On” and “On Her Way” — depart from the ’80s/’00s-Triple-A theme but are equally accomplished. “Move On” is a soulful, flickering ’90s arena-rock ballad that walks a tightrope of a steady synth line, and “On Her Way” is a short, sweet weeper, with Maverick’s plaintive vocals and co-songwriter Brian Winkle’s legato piano lines stumbling along, arm and arm, toward some sort of closure. Visit MySpace.com/EOTOBand.

Contact HearSay at hearsay@fwweekly.com.

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