Singles Grab Bag is a new review series featuring bands and artists that don’t have new albums out but do have new music in the form of singles. The “grab bag” element encourages an array of genres and acts to be included, and in keeping with that, here is an eclectic mix of six Okie releases to kickstart the series.
"Endless Bags" by Weak Knees
Charging out of the gate with a cymbal crash and chugging guitar and snare, this fuzzy cut turns out to play as loose and sunny as the cover art suggests. Nothing is quite front and center in the mix, which makes it easy to get lost in the music. The occasionally crunchy guitar riffs lay down nicely on top of simple bass lines between vocal moments and the occasional layer of organ.
Minimal lyrics stretch across the song, often at a rate of one word per bar, and this complements the sort of steady haze the track boasts. It changes back and forth between 6/4 and 4/4 time signatures, but the different sections of the song flow nicely, keeping it interesting without interrupting the tone it initiates. It sounds fairly straightforward on the surface, yet it has a subtle elusiveness to it that invites the listener deeper into the blur.
“Endless Bags” is available at Bandcamp and obneac.com as part of a two-track cassette tape, the B-side of which is the equally summer-filled “Easy Now.”
"Ukiyo" by SUBGHOST (fka Gage Baker (Seven))
This slick, laid-back electronic composition is full of smooth flourishes that embellish its central, super catchy hook. The instrumentation is carefully chosen for an optimal balance between chilled and heated sensations. The bumping bass and trap snares ride the mix as the aforementioned hook (with its smartly placed grace notes) trades off between snazzy synth and strings.
It’s true that a lot of DJ/electronic acts on Soundcloud put out music like this, but that doesn’t diminish the appeal of “Ukiyo.” Inspired by Japanese culture, the Stillwater-based producer’s track doesn’t necessarily reflect all of his work, but that merely indicates that he is unsatisfied with nailing down one line of sound and seeks to try new things.
Regardless, this cut is pretty dope, as they say. Its wordless melody could get old fast in the wrong hands, but Baker ensures it doesn’t outstay its welcome.
“Ukiyo” is available to stream and download here.
"One Less" by Ephemera
This hardcore ball of fury is the latest from Shawnee-based metal band Ephemera. It’s expertly mixed and arranged, with guitars acting as pillars in the left and right speakers while the shouting, screaming frontman dominates the central channel. There are plenty of great moments where the mix drops out to leave only dual, harmonized guitars for seconds at a time, and the glitchy tampering with the finished recording is a nice touch as well.
Of course, the listener will have to get on board with a chorus that at one point angrily expels “One less motherfucker to deal with / One less motherfucker that’s in our way.”
“One Less” is explosive, but even with all its distortion and edge, it doesn’t get muddy in the least. The performances are on fire without burning down the structure on which they stand, a quality at least partly owed to the band’s restrained use of bass. The song itself is well-arranged, too, giving a sustained bridge late in the track that cools the cylinders ever so slightly before the final barrage of heavy bombast.
“One Less” is free to stream on the band’s Soundcloud.
"Pretty Girls" by Campbell Young
Full of bouncy Casio synth beats, this DIY pop tune isn’t the celebration its title might imply, and that seems to be the point. The line “When you open up your mouth, I truly see who you are” pretty much sums up the song, which is basically Campbell Young venting about a betrayal from the opposite sex.
It plays like a party anthem for “pretty boys with broken hearts” duped by “pretty girls with shady personalities,” and it does succeed at that. If it weren’t so stupidly fun, such broad generalizations and self-pity would probably reek more of nice-guy sexism than it does, but it’s hard to take the subject matter too seriously.
The superficial tendencies of Young’s self-produced work go a long way to echoing the dissection of superficiality the song offers–“Perfect complexion don’t mean nothin’ to me” could just as easily refer to pop music. The quick tempo and shiny synths keep the mood bright and lively, which is what the keytar-wielding one-man 80’s band does best.
“Pretty Girls” can be streamed on Soundcloud here.
"Sam’s Song" by LFNC
Ska music is alive and well in 2016–just ask the boys of LFNC who played Denton’s Ska by Skawest this past weekend. If that isn’t enough, this new upstart released a couple of sweet tracks last month, the first of which is “Sam’s Song.”
This cut feels every bit as fun and recreational as it probably was to make. The septet, comprised of OCU music students, rests on their talents and genre trademarks to make a solid recording. The mix is a little rough around the edges, admittedly, and the horns start to fall slightly out of tune by the end. However, that latter detail confirms that this band probably dealt in single takes, which is a welcome rarity and explains the organic feel of “Sam’s Song.”
It’s also quite catchy. The lead vocalist, strange as it may sound, has a voice made for ska music, and he goes by Lulu. If that isn’t enough to entice ska fans, then maybe nothing is.
“Sam’s Song” is available on Bandcamp alongside “Legend of Dawn,” a structurally inventive companion piece that also deserves some attention.
"True Believer" by Jeremy Hall
One of many assorted one-offs the Guthrie-based songwriter has on his Bandcamp page, this home recording is full of lo-fi overdubs that show the man knows how to arrange. The execution is a bit slapdash, but that’s presumably because Hall is already on to the next song before he can take the time to perfect his existing work.
“True Believer” sounds like something from decades past, both in audio fidelity and songwriting. It has a traditional pop structure complete with an acoustic solo and slightly modified choruses at each go ’round. It ducks out before carrying on into the two-minute mark, which was quite the radio trend at one time.
Although it shows a release date of 2016, there’s no way of knowing when it was recorded, or indeed when any of his work was created. The various songs all tend toward different sounds and genres like a stockpile of leftovers from a career musician. It adds a fascinating layer of mystique that is really best left that way.
Jeremy Hall’s Bandcamp page is here.
This article was originally written for Cellar Door Music Group (cellardoormusicgroup.com). It is archived here with the publisher’s permission.
Archivist notes: SUBGHOST was originally attributed solely to Gage Baker (Seven) who had an artist name change after the original publication of this article on CDMG.
Jeremy Hall re-released “True Believer”, the broken link was replaced with this later re-release.
A new feature photo was made to replace the original one lost to the ages.
– Elecktra Stanislava (1/21/2021)