Stay tuned to OpenAir, new music from Colorado Public Radio, to hear the latest from Crocodiles, Willy Mason, and Elephant Revival.
By: Daniel Mescher
Crocodiles - Crimes of Passion
Born in the wake of punk bands Some Girls and The Plot to Blow Up the Eiffel Tower, San Diego band Crocodiles return with their fourth album Crimes of Passion. Crocodiles, the songwriting duo of Brandon Welchez and Charles Rowell, craft hook-filled noise-rock that combines surf-rock fuzz and chiming jangle pop guitar. The songs on Crimes of Passion are equally indebted to classic-era punk as 80s post-punk (the band shares its name with a classic Echo & the Bunnymen album). Welchez and Rowell find a harmonious balance of lo-fi earnestness and pop sensibilities on songs like “Heavy Metal Clouds” and “Cockroach”. Lyrically, passion is the key word here, with tracks like “I Like It in the Dark”, “Marquis de Sade”, and “Virgin” having overt romantic and sexual overtones. But, hey, rock ‘n roll is no “Crime”, right?
Standout track: “Marquis de Sade”
Willy Mason - Carry On
Hard to believe, but Willy Mason is only 28. The NYC-based songwriter’s husky voice belies his youth: Mason sounds as if he has spent decades on the troubadour circuit. Perhaps he inherited his weathered timbre from his folksinger parents, because in just eight years’ time since his UK-charting first album, Where the Humans Eat, Mason has honed his craft into a matured, convincing collection of world-weary blues-folk tracks on his third album, Carry On. The album’s title is a kind of mantra for the rambling, gambling associations of the musical traditions he embraces on the album’s eleven songs. Lyrics to standouts “Restless Fugitive” and “Show Me the Way to Go Home” evoke the nomadic elements of the classic lore of Woody Guthrie and Bob Dylan (two artists whom Mason owes a debt of gratitude). Carry On is primarily gentle down-tempo singer-songwriter fare, though “Pickup Truck” and “I Got Gold” prove Mason isn’t afraid of adapting a grooving country-rock swagger as well.
Standout track: “Restless Fugitive”
Elephant Revival - These Changing Skies
Nederland quintet Elephant Revival’s latest full-length is a gorgeous union of Celtic, bluegrass, and country music that has been dubbed “transcendental folk”. That’s an apt designation: one gets the impression Ralph Emerson and Henry Thoreau would have appreciated the band’s back-to-basics philosophy. These Changing Skies contains poetic and melodic beauty with a timelessness exclusive to roots music. Violin, finger-style guitar, mandolin, banjo, and acoustic percussion mingle seamlessly with the members’ collective vocals, reaching joyful apexes on “The Obvious” and ‘Down to the Sea”. The songwriting and technical chops apparent on These Changing Skies often prove irresistible, and it’s acts like Elephant Revival that demonstrate the extraordinary quality of Colorado’s prospering folk scene.
Standout track: “Spinning”