Singles Grab Bag #5

This fifth installment of Singles Grab Bag features seven new tracks from various Oklahoma artists in a diverse cross-section of genres. Music from pop, surf rock, hip-hop, chillwave, inspirational, emo-punk, and Americana styles all make an appearance here from local musicians. Have a taste!

"Manicure" by Sports

Barely a year after their popular debut, Naked All the Time, the boys of Sports are back with a smooth new dreampop single. By comparison to that thoroughly laid-back album, “Manicure” turns the tempo up a hair without losing the trio’s relaxed feel. Halfway through the runtime, too, shakers and bongos enter to make the track one of the band’s more percussive. The result is a breathy, groovy nightlife number that washes in retro synth glory.

If the 1980s cursive artwork wasn’t enough, the band’s website now redirects to a screenshot of the interior of an older car model. The URL reads peoplecantstopchillin.com, and if the lyrics are any indication, it’s of the “Netflix and chill” variety. The windshield of the car reveals a late night sky, and of course, the hot new Sports single is on the radio, setting the perfect tone for a backseat rendezvous.

“Manicure” is available to stream and download on all online platforms.

"Bein' Meat" by Oklahoma Uprising

Guthrie-based Joel T. Mosmon’s new project Oklahoma Uprising is a self-described “prairie-style rock band with a hint of folk and a kick of blues.” That blues side in particular comes out in the band’s debut single, “Bein’ Meat,” which features bendy guitar picking and a big dose of harmonica. It also follows a traditional blues song structure with four verses separated by brief instrumental jams.

The song discusses various positions, by choice or by nature, that don’t end well simply by association. For instance, the title verse says that “It’s hard bein’ meat…them butchers always cut ya down.” It’s a fun little idea that concludes with “It’s hard bein’ me” in the final verse, adding a slight gravity to the concept without being the least bit dramatic about it. If it seems like the song was a no-brainer to write and perform, that’s a testament to the casual performances, which gloss over the high level of artistry that is actually present here. Summery porch jams can be deceptively simple that way.

“Bein’ Meat” is currently available as a free download in the above music player. You can catch Oklahoma Uprising doing its take on Americana at Belle Isle Brewery this Saturday at 10pm.

"Don't Talk to Strangers" by Junebug Spade

The new surf rock teaser track for Junebug Spade‘s upcoming album, The Age of Love, is a midtempo breeze that sounds like it was spray painted with reverb in a suburban shanty. The resulting blur works well with the backing voices, which offer many oohs and aahs to enhance the track’s trance-like elements.

Even at a brisk two and a half minutes, the cut manages to work in a nice bit of hazy guitar solo work. At the midpoint, one guitar tone segues out of the lead melody and passes its solo to another guitar tone. Neither are showy or extravagant in the least, and appropriately so. The latter’s slide guitar sound, for instance, contributes a slippery riff that brings the song’s loose and lazy feel to the forefront.

The lyrics and lead vocals, despite being somewhat masked in effects, are simple and direct and don’t get lost in the mix. While the hazy music speaks for itself, it never hurts to have an easy to grasp lyrical center saying to “follow your instincts, just let it all hang out.”

The Age of Love drops this Saturday, accompanied by a release show at HiLo Club with Bad Dad and previous Singles Grab Bag featurettes Softaware.

"Mended" by Don Shreffler

Structured in the vein of worship songs, this openly religious effort from Don Shreffler tackles the big question of seeming contradiction in theology. There are times when ideas conflict, and he doesn’t disregard that notion on “Mended.” In his Bandcamp notes, Shreffler draws inspiration from scripture and sermon in his reflection of faith, ultimately concluding in his song that humankind is inherently limited in its understanding of the universe.

Musically, the recording subtly elevates the song’s simple, acoustic origins to acknowledge the vastness of its ideas. It opens with a soft bloom of echoed voices and sounds that swirl into a clearing of stripped guitar and lead vocal the latter of which remains the core focus of the song. As it progresses, harmonies and instruments creep in and out of the mix, spilling into an eventual mix of firmly present drums and veiled ambience. This combination carries the notion of things seen and unseen across a subdued instrumental 5/4 as the opening swirl returns.

“Mended” is accompanied by a B-side, “Mine Eyes,” and is available now on Bandcamp.

"Home" by RLSS

RLSS is a new, self-described “poweremo” band from Piedmont. The four-piece has been gigging all summer with underground scene notables like Seasonal, Carvist, and Naturalist, all of which seem to be a part of a recent resurgence in post-hardcore and emo music. RLSS borrows a bit more heavily from its punk origins than the others, though.

The band’s debut single, “Home,” starts innocently enough, with lo-fi guitar and drums softly jamming at a slight distance. Then comes the distortion and course, strangulated vocals, shouting that “If everything good dies young, I should have died ten years ago.” The singer goes on to lament the life choices and circumstances that have led him to this point, where “home” is more of a reluctant state of mind, a realization that maybe the place one belongs is not always the place one wants to live.

The recording itself is a DIY effort, where the guitars and drums aren’t as forceful as they are in a live setting. The rough garage aesthetic isn’t so bad for something as punk-leaning as this, though. The band seems, with this track at least, to reject the atmosphere-building of its post-rock contemporaries while rejecting the extrospective rants of punk rockers. It’s an interesting blend that doesn’t quite have its footing yet, but RLSS certainly shows some promise with what it has done here.

"Halfway to Heaven ft. Free Dru" by Jay Nino

With the gravitas of a church organ sample and the uplifting glisten of a crystalliferous synth line, Jay Nino finds the perfect balance to convey the heart-heavy sincerity in “Halfway to Heaven.” In the wake of a loved one’s death, Nino expresses his hardship in coping while finding strength in others and himself. The lyrics contain poignant moments that don’t bask in their inherent sadness, instead choosing to reflect and carry on in tribute. Take, for example, the line “I guess God was in a rush to hurry up and take his angels back home,” which shows neither disdain nor acceptance.

The title comes from the featured vocalist, who sings “I’m halfway to heaven, I know,” effectively establishing the track’s hook. It’s a profound one, to be sure. It doesn’t just spell out that a life half-lived is a life half closer to death. It refers to the close bond of a loved one, a bond so strong that it doesn’t break when that loved one is taken. Instead, a part of one’s whole self is taken with that bond, a bond which now becomes an unshakable link to the celestial.

"I Eat Earthquakes Like You For Breakfast" by The House of Jed

Featuring a punchy swing beat and a catchy melody, The House of Jed‘s latest features fun, resilient lyrics despite the scorn from which it stems. No, this isn’t about literal earthquakes, though the metaphor is especially topical these days in Oklahoma. “I Eat Earthquakes Like You For Breakfast” takes place in the wake of a severed relationship, proclaiming that “You can’t use me anymore.”

An echoed keyboard line holds up the savvy chord progression while riffy odds and ends color the arrangement’s more subconscious elements. Even mild additions boost the momentum of the track, as heard in the second verse. There, a distant, fuzzed out guitar holds down whole notes, and what sounds to be a triangle strikes an occasional off beat to keep the listener on its feet.

At three minutes, the song could easily go on longer. In spite of having already run through three choruses, two verses, and an instrumental bridge by the time it ends, it still feels somewhat sudden. The beat drops out, leaving the keyboard echoes to hang over somewhat uncertainly. There’s one great way to solve the irresolution, though, and that’s hitting the play button again. The House of Jed is nothing if not full of replay value.

Below, check out the one-man project’s music video for “I Eat Earthquakes Like You For Breakfast.”

This article was originally written for Cellar Door Music Group (cellardoormusicgroup.com). It is archived here with the publisher’s permission.

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