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Four on the floor

Albums you may have missed as fall fell
By SAM PFEIFLE  |  October 22, 2008

It’s been a fine fall already: sunny, crisp weekends for apple picking; big-time albums from Ray LaMontagne, Pete Kilpatrick, and Twisted Roots; a deep Red Sox run in the playoffs. With all these distractions, it would be easy to understand if you’ve missed a couple of these coming down the pike:

The Mutineers, Coal Creek
Released a couple weeks back, this is the three-piece string band’s sophomore full-length, a follow-up to 2005’s fine Where Mockingbirds Roam. They don’t change much, emphasizing Stuart MacDonald’s clear vocals, which show impressive range, and a take on acoustic music that’s somewhere between Garcia-Grisman, Merle Travis, and the Old Crow Medicine Show. Their originals, mostly penned by MacDonald, often stand above the traditionals included here, as they seem almost Civil War era in their authenticity, and some of the old-timey stuff (“Little Maggie,” “Cocaine Blues”) just doesn’t seem to fit the band’s nice-guy vibe.

Best are the title track — harmonica-fueled and featuring great lines like, “People living wrong, people living right/People praying to the Lord in the middle of the night” — and “Prism,” which MacDonald crafted using his deceased grandmother’s poetry: “Like a prism, I hold my life up to the scrutiny of the sun.”

An Evening With, Lovers & Losers
With Peet Chamberlain, Jason Ingalls, Aaron Hautala, and Todd Hutchisen prominently featured, fans of the local scene might come into this record expecting something either a lot more poppy (Chamberlain/Hautala) or a lot slower (Ingalls/Hutchisen), but the middle road, as penned by frontman Jeremy Alexander, ain’t bad. There’s a lot of sad-sack, beery country tinge, some purposeful dissonance, and some interesting lo-fi production bits courtesy of Acadia Recording, but a tune like “Crawlin from Your Skin” can really get revved up and the piano on “Disintegrate the Heart” is downright pretty. Fans of Red House Painters could find something here to latch onto, and there’s a little bit of that TV on the Radio/Albert Hammond Jr. aesthetic going on here, too, in that Alexander likes to get under your skin from time to time.

Conifer, Crown Fire
Hopefully, you caught their release show last Monday, as this is a band that can only be fully appreciated live. A virtually all-instrumental outfit that’ve recently added Dave Camlin (Castle Bravo) for a second bass and some baritone guitar, Conifer are the kind of band you feel in your gut more than listen to. They craft pleasingly heavy thought pieces that roll and sway, and aren’t quite as heavy here on Crown Fire as they were on their self-titled debut from 2004. “Surface Fire” is Built to Spill guitars, though not quite as manic; “Cruciform Empennage” (which means, I think, “cross-shaped fins on the tail of a plane”) opens with a Spanish guitar kind of thing, joined by an electric and then a bouncy noise like a jack in the box turned upside down, later there’s a hint of “I am Iron Man” and a particularly nice, throaty guitar; “Song for Krom” features their best Flash Gordon impersonation, with futuristic (are they anymore?) whirs and sirens. There are even vocals: Oxbow’s Eugene Robinson wails and screeches through the album-closing title track, which can be a little disturbing, actually.

And they’re as experimental live as they are on disc: For SPACE’s Halloween party, they’ll dress up as German experimental rockers CAN (get it? Canifer?); then when they tour with Lesbian, they’ll create the band Machu Picchu Mother Future, what seems to be a post-rock supergroup of sorts.

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