Since his 2007 breakthrough album, Spiderman Of The Rings, Dan Deacon has assumed numerous roles. He’s a staple of Baltimore’s Wham City art collective — and a classically-trained composer and film scorer. On stage, he’s a mad scientist tinkering with colorful electronics — and a ringleader encouraging his wild fans in absurdist dance-offs. Likewise, his music delivers both exquisite bliss and full-on beat-heavy cacophony. But no matter the setting, Deacon’s unfettered sense of humor and his masterful ear for sonic textures unify his various music sides in endlessly exciting ways.
Now, after several records written for larger ensembles, Deacon has gone solo once again with his latest, Gliss Riffer. In some ways, it’s a return to what he’s best known for: exuberant and densely-stuffed electronic dance music. And while singing has always played some part Deacon’s songs, Gliss Riffer showcases his voice more fully. You can hear that immediately in the lead single, “Feel The Lightning,” and in “Learning To Relax” — where Deacon changes the pitch or timbre of his voice to sometimes sound female — like a duet with himself. It’s a big pop-infused sound that easily got fans flailing with awkward abandon on the dance floor at Rough Trade in Williamsburg.
The Philly-based power punk band Swearin’ is one of the groups that was born after the break-up of P.S. Eliot, a much-loved indie rock band from twin sisters Katie and Allison Crutchfield. While the Crutchfields have gone their separate ways — Katie with her solo project Waxahatchee, and Alison with the noisier Swearin’ — both share an honest lyrical sentiment with songs that reflect on restlessness and crumbling relationships.
Swearin’ plays rebelliously fast and fuzzy songs meant to be cranked up loud, but with smart lyrics about youthful detachment and personal troubles that should be heard. But where, the four-piece’s first self-titled record felt shifted towards Crutchfield’s point of view — especially on songs like “Kenosha” or “Just” — the songs on the its just-released followup, Surfing Strange, redistribute the voices more evenly between Crutchfield and Kyle Gilbride — and even bassist Keith Spencer on “Melonoma.”
In songs like the opening basher “Dust In The Gold Sack,” Crutchfield takes lead with a softer, impossibly melodic tone above the squalling feedback. Yet the very next song, “Watered Down,” it’s Gilbride’s shout front and center. Ultimately, Surfing Strange is another fine collection of honest and cathartic songs that shows Swearin’ musical and lyrical progress.
Sure, it can be easy (if wrongheaded) to dismiss bands with absurd, punny names. But Joanna Gruesome (a sly nod to Joanna Newsom) is the real deal. However, unlike Newsom’s ornate, melodic harp music, the Welsh band’s debut Weird Sister is crammed full of noisy and punk-infused grunge. I caught Joanna Gruesome twice last year at CMJ and each time was a blast to the senses. Almost a year later, at Shea Stadium, the band not only proved that last fall’s hype was for good reason, but also showed how much better its live show has gotten in that time. These songs are meant to be heard live, and loud.
With “Sugarcrush” or “Anti Parent Cowboy Killers,” Joanna Gruesome can be an urgent and exuberant blast of frenzied attitude. Yet with “Wussy Void,” Alanna McArdle’s breathy vocal melodies add a trace of pop buried just under surface of those searing guitars. For me, that mix between melody and dissonance is a perfect combination.