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Monday, January 14, 2008

myspace music monday: Bicycles and Gravel

So, funny story. Today at around 1:30pm I have a choice to make. I can either sit down and write this week's myspace music monday, or I can go on a bike ride. Well it was 65 degrees and blue skies around that time, so I chose the latter. I return home at around 2:30, only to find that I locked myself out of the house. I then proceed to spend the next four hours out in the increasingly cold weather in nothing but a t-shirt and shorts (because my cell phone is inside too and neighbors aren't home) until someone can let me in the house. That's why I'm a little late with today's update. And that's also why I happened to choose the following band.

Bicycles and Gravel

Bicycles and Gravel is a unique little indie band from the mecca of indie music, Athens, GA. Their music is very raw, but at the same time not too messy for it to be enjoyable. At times they can sound like Built to Spill. Other times, they pop it up a bit and can sound completely unique. Either way, the band has a very refreshing sound, and it makes for a very interesting listen.

The first song on the band's page is called "Good Mornings." The song is bookended by two extended ambient sections made up of a few low-fi conversational recordings and looming synths. It's a very cool sound, though it does run a bit long in the outro. Once the song proper starts, you'll get a better idea of what you're going to be hearing (aside from the Godspeed You Black Emperor-esque stuff). Vocals are really hit or miss and unabashedly amateur, but it hardly matters in the context of this joyful and hopeful song. When the vocalist sings, "Let's get back to what matters here," it hardly effects you. But then it's repeated again and again like a mantra, and it starts to sink in. It's a beautiful sentiment, accentuated by the simple, yet beautiful instrumentation.

"Hold On" is a much more different song, with more assertive drumming and a completely off the wall trumpet that completely steals the show. The dense instrumentation eventually drops out, giving way to group vocals (think Polyphonic Spree) and hand claps. They sing, "The weather couldn't have been better to take flight. So climb on my back and hold on. The air is so thin. Your lungs will get used to it." As soon as that line is uttered, the song again comes crashing on us (literally, crash cymbals are used very effectively here). It's an awesome song. Listen for yourself.

The next song, "Lighthouse," is pretty forgettable. The band tones things down for the first time and when everyone is subdued, the vocals become less forgivable. It is worth noting, however, that there the song's coda is filled with guitars that make the band sound a little like Built to Spill. Don't get too excited. You can definitely tell the difference, but there are bits and pieces of it in there.

"A Song for Rooftops" keeps things at a slow pace. The lyrics take center stage here as everything else remains peripheral for the most part. The vocalist's voice once again takes its toll, cracking and struggling to hold any note that's out of his limited range. At the same time, though, he seems to be channeling early Wayne Coyne; embracing the badness and parading forward. I don't know if I agree with the choice or not, but the song itself ain't bad. There is a definite difference between a flawed singer who embraces his flaws and one that pretends they aren't there. This guy seems to have figured that out pretty well.

"Where Songs Go To Hide" wraps things up with another slower-paced song, albeit a poppier one than its predecessors. It's lyrics are unusual, if not brilliant. In the mother of all run-on sentences, the vocalist sings, "A spider has crawled on arm, and inched its way into my ear, and spun its way in, and poisoned all of my thoughts and left its cobwebs there to rot, and left me with no brain." The song reminds me a lot of "Bad Days" by The Flaming Lips, which I've always had a soft spot for despite its awfulness.

It's clear to me that I prefer Bicycles and Gravel a lot more when they're rocking out and not succumbing to their folksier side. The band has a lot of talent spread out, but the vocals will need a bit more work before I go ahead and give them a full endorsement (as if they care). But for the time being, there are some good songs to be found on their myspace page. And if you like the sample I've provided, please go check it out and support their music.

Bicycles and Gravel's myspace page
The Branch Collection
Buy the God Don't Like Poetry EP
Another Opinion


Anonymous said...

I've heard these guys somewhere before I think, great.

Anonymous said...

Hey this is a student of your guitarist. gave me this cd when i was in highschool. e-mail me some time
-Stacy Tessier