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Indie rock rules the Fort
My favorite local releases of 2012
By EA Poorman
Fort Wayne Reader
If I can take anything away from this past year, it's that a whole bunch of Fort Wayne bands brought the magic to our ears in 2012. There have been some pretty amazing bands come and go in this town over the last several years. I mean, once you get a band like Thunderhawk making a mess of our heads and local watering holes you tend to wonder if those sort of ramshackle, rock 'n roll heights can ever be climbed again. Well I'm here to say with much confidence that yes, yes they can.
With so many talented young turks putting out such great local noise this year, you'd think it'd be damn near impossible to narrow a “list” of some sort down to just a handful of bands. Well, yes and no. In lieu of making this a 10-part series on great Fort Wayne bands (which wouldn't be hard to do), I'm just gonna concentrate on a few bands that grabbed me and wouldn't let go.
House Of Bread's album Hypnic Jerk is one of those records that you can put on any time, in pretty much any mood and enjoy from start to finish. The songs on this eloquent dream pop album don't beat you over the head. They don't require riddles to be unlocked, or copious amounts of chemicals to be ingested before you "get it". It's a record from start to finish that takes you into its world and guides you. And yes, Hypnic Jerk is its own world. A place of distant echoes, longing, sadness, hope, and ultimately a spiritual release. Don't get all weirded-out by the heady language used here, folks. It's also got a hell of a lot of great pop hooks, 80s new wave synth, Smashing Pumpkins-like dream haze and a retro-futuristic warmth that gives you the feeling of Blade Runner and The Neverending Story simultaneously. Omar Afzaal and Bob K. Haddad spent a good amount of time on this soon-to-be local classic, so check out 'Lampshade Dreams', 'There Are Rooms We've Never Shown You', and especially 'Defeated Bones' for proof of their efforts.
TIMBER!!! are a band that take me back to Boston in 1979. They also bring to mind New York in 1976. There's a jaggedness to their sound that makes it slightly dangerous; yet like those bands of yesteryear there's a mix of pop finesse thrown into the broken glass and rusty nail batter. Numbers has the jagged, angular riffs of post punk, the rhythm section of the best of new wave, and the vocal ferocity of riot grrrl. Kendra Johnson, Ben Larson, Jason Williams, and Jason Davis make up the mighty TIMBER!!!. What you get is a rock 'n roll co op. Each of them bringing their best to the table to make this a full fledged 'band.' There's no single person carrying anybody else's weight here (though I'm not around to see who tears down the equipment after a gig). “Waste Away,” “Tales of a Dog Walker,” “Kaleidoscope,” “Frisco Disco” and “Lackluster” are all testaments to the greatness of TIMBER!!!, and Numbers.
The sleeping indie rock giant known as Vandolah woke from its gentle slumber over the summer and gave us an e.p. called One More Minute. Not sure if that title refers to the giant trying to get one more word in before going back to bed, or whether it's not quite done giving us some more excellent indie rock ear candy. Either way, I'm quite happy for Vandolah's out-of-the-blue surprise return. Coming in at seven songs- including two instrumentals -One More Minute is another trip into the slightly anesthetized, swoon-filled indie rock world of M. Hutchins and his Vandolah institution. If you're expecting a continuation of To The Moon, the last proper album by Vando, you may be in for a surprise. Songs like “One More Minute” and “Something Makes Me Lose My Mind” do harken back to that 'classic' Vandolah sound, which consists of equal parts Sparklehorse, Guided By Horses, Wilco, and Hutchins' own neurosis. But on further inspection there's a new spirit to this old juggernaut. “Hiding Its Teeth,” “The Zoo,” and “Stranger” still contain M. Hutchins' knack for weaving literary tales worthy of names like Bradbury, Dick, and Vonnegut. But musically he's expanded the sonic palette to include some new tricks he was formally only displaying on his solo output. Something old, something new, and something unexpected. Welcome back, sleeping giant.
Of all the local releases this year, the one that was the biggest surprise to this old curmudgeon was Jason Davis' Flatline Movements. If you're not aware of Jason Davis, you're probably not alone. Because of this, I feel it is my duty as a responsible music journalist to fill you in on a secret: Jason Davis is a force to be reckoned with, folks. Not only is he the producer, engineer, musical comrade, and multi-instrumentalist to the many great bands of this town, but he's also a hell of a songwriter in his own right. If you have not yet heard his album Flatline Movements, for the love of Jebus what are waiting for?
This is an album of dense, jagged, rusted-out pop and rock with its spirit firmly planted in the gardens of Grant Lee Buffalo, Wilco, The Jayhawks; and pop raconteurs like Jason Falkner, Jon Brion, and Mark Oliver Everett. On album opener “Slow Down,” Davis' voice sounds like a drugged Jon Brion fronting Red Red Meat. You're thinking at any moment the floor is gonna drop out from underneath him, but it never does. From what I can tell, Davis performed everything on this release, including the malaise that floats above the proceedings throughout. Songs like “Rarely Wrong,” “SharperTongue,” and “Chance” have a quiet, understated sadness to them, while “Formative Years” and “Parade” have more of a pop lean to them. “Everywhere I Go” is a frayed wire of a track. A toothache dulled with booze and pills. This is one monster of a local release.
In-between recording the area's best bands in his studio Off The Cuff Sound and creating the 'Jason Davis Sound', Davis found time to write and record Flatline Movements, as well as record a couple tracks with his other band Streetlamps for Spotlights. Oh, and play drums with his other band TIMBER!!!. I'm not sure when this guy sleeps. In any case, Jason Davis gets the overachiever award from me this year. He's proven himself -in my eyes and ears anyways- to be one of the best in this town we call Fort Wayne. Before 2013 rolls itself onto us, make sure you seek out a copy of Flatline Movements. If you don't get it before 2013, then make it your New Years resolution to do so.
So there you have it. Those are my favorites this year. Like I said, there were several great local records released this year by some great bands (D Ferren's For Glare & Gun, Exterminate All Rational Thought's Lining The Streets, and even a little cassette release by Heaven's Gateway Drugs called CPF Cassette come to mind). But I only have so much room to wax ecstatic about music. I'm sure next year will bring another great haul of local music. That is, if the world doesn't end.
On that note, Merry Christmas and Happy New Year Fort Wayne.