By Mabel Suen
By Cassie Kohler
By Evan C. Jones
By RFT Music
By RFT Music
By Tom Finkel
By Ryan Wasoba
By Roy Kasten
The Midwest Avengers
(Freedom Culture Coalition)
After countless lineup changes (and the untimely deaths of two former members), the Midwest Avengers returned this year with a new live band and a new direction. Well, not entirely new: Mixing rap and rock isn't particularly groundbreaking (or listenable) in and of itself, but the Avengers turn the haters on their ears. Incorporating a fierce, bottom-heavy rhythm section and a shred-ready guitarist, the emcees So'n'So and BC trade verses with spitfire audacity and relaxed cool. It's a combination that allows for menacing depths and breezy funk — and much else in between.
Rats & People
The City of Passersby
Brien Seyle, singer and guitarist for Rats & People, has crafted a universe that is both specific and vague. The songs on The City of Passersby deal with miners, ship captains and broken soldiers, each one existing everywhere and nowhere at the same time. And no time period binds these characters, much like the way folk tales get updated through the years. But these folk songs work well within their arrangements, which reference various rock and folk idioms. Accordion, cornet and fiddle flesh out these songs, and drummer Rob Laptad keeps strict time on songs like "We Will Be There," though the tone slows down for the next song, the hushed "Ohio." Fiddler Beth Dill (who has since left the band) sings lead on the track, offering a nice midpoint to an album that is marked by Seyle's flurried, pinched delivery.
Songs for the Weary
2007 was the year that Theodore emerged as a leading light in this town's fractured folk scene. Songs for the Weary finds singer and songwriter Justin Kinkel-Schuster leading the band through dirges, freak-outs and simple singer-songwriter tunes. His voice can turn from broken and browbeaten (the searing opening track "Back from the War") to twangy and campy (the clip-clop country of "Good and Sweet"). Theodore jumps styles throughout its debut, refusing to settle on one sound, tempo or emotion. Where the band goes from here is anyone's guess, but Songs for the Weary strongly suggests that it will be worth listening to find out.
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