CD Reviews: The Speedtrain; Pontius CoPilot: Big Fresh; South 75


THE SPEEDTRAIN| Magic | Roll Around | Colonel Keister |Jet Glue Records

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PONTIUS COPILOT |The Pirate Lights of Pamlico Sound|St. Constance Finds A Friend

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The latest release from Jet Glue Records boasts two talented bands who share a commitment to musical sincerity and who illustrate their own visions of aural richness.

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The Speedtrain offers three upbeat tracks of shimmering pop with sweet and simple arrangements. “Roll Around” and “Colonel Keister” benefit from well placed instrumental and vocal flourishes while “Magic” clearly shows an ability to express control in their animated and fragile songs.

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Pontius CoPilot delivers purposeful, spirited rock with intensity, throwing themselves into their music with the unrepentant passion of possessed souls. They are storytellers of uncommon lucidity with the ability to inject subtle meanings into melodically ebullient tunes. The fuzzy guitars of “The Pirate Lights of Pamlico Sound” are contagious and invigorating as touches of torment and warm vocals make “Saint Constance Finds A Friend” painfully pretty.

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Both bands are gifted. Pontius CoPilot has a knack for pairing bitter lyrics with a sweet sound while the inclusion of the farfisa helps define the strange sonic dimension The Speedtrain girls inhabit. At times, The Speedtrain does seem less compelling and a bit more insular than Pontius CoPilot, but that’s largely due to the nature of their differing styles. Regardless, this 7″ shines brightly in the face of indie wannabes. -Chris Webb

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A Pickin’ and a Sinnin’
Hello Records

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Ah, potential. Richmond’s South 75 show plenty of potential on A Pickin’ and a Sinnin’. Unfortunately, as they say, it’s all in the mix.

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Quite simply, the production on this disc destroys it before it ever has a chance. It feels as though it was layered, rather than mixed, with the bass on the bottom, then the drums and guitars. The vocals come in on top, dominating and overpowering the instruments.

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Jamie Don Estes’ snarling vocals are perfectly suited to South 75’s style of raucous cowpunk, which is apparently indigenous to the Bluegrass. On this disc, however, the vocal mix eclipses the musicianship, at times rendering the other instruments nearly inaudible.

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There are a couple of exceptions, though. On both “Tennessee Rock Slut” and “White Trash Fucker” the vocals are no less growling than on the rest of the disc. It is on these two songs, though, that they’re somewhat further back in the mix, allowing for a notably more balanced sound. Had the balance achieved on these two tracks had been used as a barometer for the sound quality of the rest of the disc, A Pickin’ and a Sinnin’ would have been an excellent example of countrified punk rock at its best.

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However, South 75 fall short of delivering a listenable disc. They do show a lot of potential, but alas, it’s lost in the mix. -Matt Dacey

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Who Are the Believers
local release

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It a time when pop music has been handed off to cardboard cut-out boy bands and copycat teenage divas-in-waiting, Big Fresh more than lives up to its name, reclaiming a piece of the pop music pie. Exhibiting genetic links to the ’60s, they offer soothing lullabies as well as the hypnotic ambiance of subterranean night dreams in their own brand of breezy pop. Their sparkling songs are the perfect soundtrack for a variety of moods, from days of languor to moments of bliss.

With pseudo-filmic atmospherics, Who Are the Believers is full of sweet and dreamy dynamics. “Smile” is a gentle track with brave vocals and a pleasant minimalist approach that lets all the musical subtleties rise to the surface. Soulful singing and doleful keyboards make “Daydream” a gem while the sweeping melody and Velveteen chorus of “Leap Into The Sky” are marvelous. Not to mention the instrumental “Ein Heisser Tip Fur Boys Und Girls” which sounds like it could have been used in a bad Elvis movie.

John Ferguson’s voice has a ripeness of tone and a joyful range. The songs have a spaciousness and a genuine gloss. There are definite musical allusions to the Beach Boys throughout. But the album itself is throttled by its own cleverness and a quirky strand of songs. It’s an album that blooms on repeated listenings and invites you to drift away with the band. You may not always be sure where they’re going, but that’s part of the fun. -Chris Webb

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