by M. Lewis Barker
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Last night in Provo, there were four different concerts happening within a very small radius. I found myself wandering around, seeing all the sites and running into friend after friend. At Muse Music, patrons were treated to the folky simplicity of Garret Williams and Alameda, as well as Jennifer Blosil‘s jazz-inspired songs. At the Deathstar, one could see some harder rock bands like the Incidentals, Stencils, and the Strokes-esque Crylics. Velour was having a ska night where skanking was most definitely encouraged.The big event was Fictionist outside Sammy’s. They closed off that whole block so several hundred people could watch them play. As you are probably aware, Fictionist is in a contest to get on the cover of Rolling Stone. They’re Provo’s biggest band right now (not countingNeon Trees). Allred played, though I can’t say I became a fan. I did manage to catch Lindsey Stirling‘s hip-hop violin act though. Stirling was recently a finalist on America’s Got Talent and has been making a name for herself. She was thoroughly entertaining and you should see her as soon as possible. I left after Fictionist played a couple songs to go see Jennifer Blosil’s set at Muse, but I can understand why people are such big fans of the band. I wish them success.There was so much to do last night for local music fans! If you wanted to hate one thing, you could enjoy another. Provo-based music is getting ready to blow up. Record companies have been watching bands around here. There are dozens upon dozens of bands in town, and a select few will soon find themselves gaining national attention. Neon Trees are bona fide pop stars, with “Animal” having been featured on Kidz Bop, Glee, and even Now! That’s What I Call Music. Joshua James and Parlor Hawk are some of iTunes best sellers in their genres. Empirates are about to be featured on radio stations across the country and are very likely to become an under-the-radar hit.
These aren’t the bands for this blog though. I’m here to tell you about someone you may not have heard of who has been making great music that goes unnoticed because it may be less accessible or just lacks promotion. Today I will be reviewing a couple local recordings, one old and one new. Requests for reviews have been steadily increasing (which means people have been reading!) so I decided it would be more prudent to include more than one at a time.Matt Weidauer – Birds
It may be a job requirement in the United States that public school bus drivers listen exclusively to Country stations, as that is all I heard as a child. And I absolutely hated every second of it. The entire genre was sullied by exaggerated (and often completely fake) southern drawls, homogenous orchestration, and faux-patriotism.Luckily, Matt Weidauer exists to show us that Country can be intelligent, pleasing, and good. He released his album, Birds, back in late 2009, but I recently acquired a copy and I intend to give it a small fraction of the exposure it deserves. Weidauer plays that wonderful mix of country, folk, and bluegrass that has slowly come to define music in and around Utah. The eight songs that make up Birds are fine songs in and of themselves, and they all work wonderfully together to produce an album worth buying.My favorite song is “A Just & Perfect Man”, a song about Job from the Old Testament. The lyrics tell the story from Job’s shoes (or, well, boiled feet). Weidauer conveys the importance of overcoming adversity and sticking to one’s principles through his steady guitar and subtle voice. It’s the sort of song that could be forgotten on an album such as this. It has no drums, no bass, no harmonica. It’s only Matt, a guitar, and a violin. And it’s short. But its simplicity is why it’s so good. I wouldn’t change a single thing about the song, and it breathes new life into an old Bible story.Please, buy this album. You can purchase Birds on iTunes or pick up a copy at Muse Music Cafe. It is worth every penny and will help support local music that doesn’t suck. And make sure you see Matt Weidauer at his next performance. He plays an acoustic guitar better than the majority of artists in town and it’s worth it for that alone.
The Brocks – The Brocks EP
The Brocks sound like an 80s movie soundtrack. Or a late 90’s radio rock band. But more modern. The influences are all there. They have a variety of sounds. The recording quality is fantastic and everything is well performed. But it tends to go all over the place, never giving them a distinctive sound. Are they pop? Rock? Indie? Folk? I am all for incorporating as many genres as possible, but it doesn’t quite feel cohesive. The one thing keeping the record together is the organ.“She Loves You” is a fun pop song. It’s not what I would listen to in my spare time, but I wouldn’t deem you a Philistine if you told me you liked it. “Run Away From Here” is similar in scope and style. Starting the EP with these two songs would have the listener assume that their entire catalogue sounds just like this, when that’s not true.The one exception to the EP is “You Are”, which sounds so much like Coldplay that it may as well be a tribute, British accent and everything. I don’t listen to Coldplay (ever), but this is not a bad song by any means. Much like Coldplay, it feels very spacey, never distorting the guitars. Also like Coldplay, it feels like it just barely misses the climax that would turn it from a good song to a fantastic one. It’s a fine song, but don’t base your opinion of The Brocks on it, as the rest of the EP never quite sounds like this.The highlight of the EP is “I’ll Try”. It’s catchy, simple, and has some fairly cool instrumentation. The arpeggiated synthesizer adds a bit of subtle flavor. The recording feels like it was done underwater, but I do not mean that in a bad way. There’s a dreamlike quality to the song. The next song, “Satisfy” is fairly similar. The vibrato on the synth (or organ?) later in the song comes across as awkward, but doesn’t last. “Since I Held You” sounds like some discarded Beatles song played with folk instruments. The EP ends with “The American Revolution”, which is actually a great song. The hip hop drum beat and variety of instrumentations help what would otherwise be a repetitive and boring song.Perhaps a different song order would help the EP. The individual songs are well written and performed, but as a whole it just feels off. I am most definitely not the Brocks’ audience so it is difficult for me to judge them or their music. I like that they mix up genres, but I’m not a big fan of how they mix up their genres. If you’re a fan of upbeat pop folk, give their EP a listen at Reverb Nation. This is a group where I say, “make up your own mind”.