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I suppose there are plenty of ways to describe my current attitude toward rock music. Readers may consider me jaded, negative, and plain hostile toward the stuff, but in reality I still like it. It’s not so much that I’ve grown harder to impress as I age—a common enough plight for someone who’s spent many years writing about music—but I think I’ve just realized how much other stuff exists in the world. Most of us pretty much stick to what we grew up on—which certainly makes the whole endeavor more manageable—but there’s something in me that’s enthralled by discovery. Still, familiar sounds can still knock me out.
I wouldn’t want to load up too much praise on the Boston band Tulsa; after all, they’ve just released their debut—at least their first non-digital one—a mere seven-song effort called I Was Submerged (Park the Van), but it sure holds some real promise. The quartet wisely opened the record with their best song, “Breath Thin,” which sounds a bit like a much darker Shins without the Brian Wilson jones. The song is meticulously put together, with acoustic and electric guitars colliding with roiling yet restrained drumming and backing vocals that seem to be calling from the great beyond. The press material that came with my copy says that Jim DeRogatis called their core sound “alternative-country a la Wilco’s Being There,” but there’s very little trace of any kind of country music here, unless a slight rusticity qualifies as such. Lead singer and songwriter Carter Tanton has a firm grip on the structural basics of good songwriting, and while his voice sticks to a subdued middle ground too much, it nonetheless proves to be a very effective instrument, articulating his haunting, pretty melodies with a mix of deft sharpness and a subtle gentleness. The band plays tomorrow night at South Union Arts.
Etran Finatawa, Introducing (Introducing)
Soweto Kinch, A Life in the Day of B19: Tales of the Tower Block (Dune)
Helena de Lima, Vale a Pena Ouvir Helena (Warner Music Brasil)
Boots Brown, Boots Brown (Slottet)