Sunday, May 20, 2007

Or, the Whale - Light Poles and Pines


If you happen to reside in the San Francisco region, tonight marks the record release party for SF-based country-rock group Or, the Whale. My good friend Matt told me of this band a while ago, guitar/banjo player Alex Robins being the older brother of his late best friend, and though Matt's Green Day obsession made me initially reluctant to take his recommendation (apologies, Matt, but you know I'm a snob), Or, the Whale turned out a pleasant surprise.

Or, the Whale will, without a doubt, get labeled a modern day Carter Family, because we indie rock writers don't know much about Appalachian folk or country music by nature, and because the group is co-ed and physically resembles a family more than a pile of lovers (to my knowledge, they are neither). As a more current reference point, I'd say their record is on par with Bright Eyes' I'm Wide Awake It's Morning, minus those pesky coke-induced shakes. Their brand new record, Light Poles and Pines, contains all three tracks from their 2006 7" (Life and Death at Sea), and their old-fashioned lyrical themes are an indication that, perhaps, the band drew its name from the complete title of Moby Dick. Aye? Aye.

The funny thing about these songs that I'm sure wasn't intended is all the tiny similarities to music outside of Or, the Whale's genre occurring throughout the record – the intro to excellent opener “Call and Response” feels like the party that takes place on Greg Ashley's “Apple Pie and Genocide”; the bass line and introductory guitar work of “Life and Death at Sea” sort of recalls the Pixies' “Where is My Mind.” But it's not a matter of imitation – again, I don't think these were intended – so much as unexpectedly incorporating pop elements into a country-rock album. Kind of nice, actually.

“Isn't She Awful” is pretty without any air of unwanted sappiness, a ballad with slide guitar; likewise, “Fixin' to Leave” shows the group's pop sensibility and makes you wonder whether this group is comprised of pop musicians performing alt-country songs. This would make sense – there's not too much of any one element or style on Light Poles and Pines, and this balance of a country and pop feel gives the group potential crossover appeal as well as the ability to make an old style palatable to the indie crowd. They're a seven-piece not afraid to bust out a mandolin or washboard here or there, and they harmonize male and female (not to mention collaborative group) vocals well. “Bound to Go Home” is the band at rootsiest and rowdiest, and “Fight Song” will send a chill up your arms.

I'm antsy to see what they can do live at this point, and since they're playing a load of California dates, the hankering should be satisfied soon. Huzzah!


Tour dates:

5/20 – Cafe Du Nord (San Francisco, CA)
6/21 – Rockit Room (San Francisco, CA)
6/22 – Starry Plough (Berkeley, CA)
6/23 – Sophia's Thai Kitchen (Davis, CA)
6/24 – Blackwater Cafe (Stockton, CA)
6/25 – The Press Club (Sacramento, CA)
7/20 – The Hotel Utah Saloon (San Francisco, CA)
7/31 – The Mohawk (Austin, TX)
8/1 – Secret Headquarters (Denton, TX)
8/9 – Casa Cantina (Athens, OH)
8/10 – The Thunderbird Cafe (Pittsburgh, PA)
8/11 – The Creek and the Cave (Long Island, NY)
8/12 – Cake Shop (New York, NY)
8/23 – Kilby Court (Salt Lake City, UT)


Or, the Whale - Isn't She Awful
Purchase Light Poles and Pines here.

1 comment:

Or The Whale said...

Or The Whale is an alternative country band playing and writing alternative country songs, Americana music, indie rock. Find us on many online radio stations.
http://orthewhale.com