No Any Walls: Heavy on Earth (Music Review)

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Imagine, if you will, a faded photo of an old barn or of the rusted corrugated iron shell of an abandoned mill or factory.

Now imagine that photograph can sing.

That’s what listening to Heavy on Earth, the new EP from No Any Walls, is like. The music is recorded with a lo-fidelity vibe that gives the songs a sense of intimacy and immediacy that’s complemented by the rusty door-hinge tenor of singer Gary Hello’s vocals and his urgent, at-times driving, guitar playing. As each tune emerges from a haze of distortion and tape hiss, it’s easy to pretend you’ve just stumbled upon an old cassette that you found in the glove compartment of a used car — and realizing that you’ve not only found some great tunes but also that you’re gaining a first-hand glimpse into the hard-lived life of someone you wish you’d had a chance to have met.

Idling comfortably at the intersection of Nirvana’s Never Mind and Bruce Springsteen’s Nebraska, Heavy on Earth offers a gritty and moving lo-fi portrait of our depressed yet not entirely hopeless cultural landscape.

The Dukenfields: Old Pal, Old Sock, Old Kid

First, a bit of trivia: Dukenfield was the surname of Philly-area-born showbiz legend WC Fields — and that’s where Philly-area rockers the Dukenfields got their name. The songs on their latest EP, Old Pal, Old Sock, Old Kid have a strong, tight post-grunge 90s sound that calls to mind the Gin Blossoms and Huffamoose with hints of Weezer and Third Eye Blind. Listen close for the cool, buzzing, retro synth line towards the end of the opening track, “Phillies 6-4.” And definitely check out the dreamy vibe of the closing track “Goodbye.” That one’s a waltz, by the way, which underscores what makes the Dukenfields so fun to listen to: they have a familiar sound like a comfortable old shoe (or old sock as the case may be), but they also have a few surprises up their collective sleeve.

You can listen to the Dukenfields on BandCamp and Spotify.

Review: Thompson Crowley – In Tongues EP

When I loaded Thompson Crowley’s In Tongues EP into iTunes, I got a message that said “Unknown Genre.”

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Fair enough, I suppose, as Crowley’s music defies easy categorization the same way most great recordings do. One of the big touchstones I’m hearing is The Kinks Are the Village Green Preservation Society, itself an album that’s difficult to fit into an obvious genre, but I’m also hearing hints of Bowie — particularly in some of the vocals — a pinch of Led Zeppelin and Robert Plant’s Eastern influences, and something approaching Harry Nilsson and Jens Lekman. I even picked up some Smiley-Smile era Beach Boys in a couple of places. Yet even as the EP drifts almost dreamily between rock, pop, folk, and world music, it hangs together beautifully as a coherent whole — clearly a labor of love recorded less as an exercise in pleasing the masses than as a heartfelt and skillful artistic statement.