5 Piece Kit (self-released; Grade: A-) is former Big Ass Truck lead singer Robby Grant's second solo album under the moniker Vending Machine. Grant's pretty, flowery vocals sometimes remind me of near-namesake Robert Plant minus the blues pretensions or arena-rock volume, but the lovably lo-fi pop Grant traffics in is more alt-rock than classic rock, and 5 Piece Kit is a slanted-and-enchanted batch of quirky gems.
Grant is mostly a one-man band here, though he does get help here and there from a few notable collaborators. "I Know, We'll Last," with a crucial assist from cellist Jonathan Kirkscey (Strike it, Noel!), is a swooning, summery, Big Starish ode that might just be the loveliest thing I've heard all year. "Shoulder Tap" is notable because, until further notice, it's the last track anyone will hear from the full Big Ass Truck lineup, the kind of unlikely mix of soulfulness and art-rock that that band made sound easy and natural, DJ Colin Butler lacing the track with sharp samples, just as he does on the following "Reno." Mouse Rocket bandmate Alicja Trout plays keyboards on the aggressive instrumental (minus sampled voices) "Sorry I Bit U." But the aesthetic that drives it all is, of course, Grant's, whose experimental yet organic sound is one of the most distinctive styles on the local scene.
Welcome to the Occupation (Makeshift Music; Grade: A-), a solo album by Brad Postlethwaite, one of the singer-songwriters behind Snowglobe and co-founder of local label Makeshift Music, is dedicated to the "memory of the many lives that have been lost to violence" and is the rare piece of locally produced music to take on larger social or political issues. If some find the politics a little strident or utopian at times, it's hard not to appreciate the impulse behind it --the sense a lot of people on the left seem to have right now that their country is slipping away from them.
Deploying the same sweetly melodic, homemade vibe as Snowglobe, if slightly less powerful musically, Welcome to the Occupation begins with a meditation on 9/11 and then expands to the event's aftermath, speaking frequently in the voices of characters who've had their lives destroyed by military violence ("Faded Picture," where a man mourns his wife, is an intensely moving portrait of "collateral damage") and in Postlethwaite's own voice ("The blood they spill won't ever speak for me").
But the high point may be "Rachel Corrie," a personalized protest song similar to early Bob Dylan, which recounts the underreported tale of Corrie, a 23-year-old American peace activist who was murdered by an Israeli bulldozer while trying to block the destruction of homes in Gaza this March. It's one of the prettiest songs on the record until you hone in on the lyrics, where Postlethwaite deftly and concisely relates the horrifying incident and then, intentionally or not, turns the "where were you" message of Alan Jackson's 9/11 anthem on its ear.
Welcome to the Occupation is the first of what promises to be a string of releases from Makeshift in the coming months.
Defunct for a couple of years, Delorean (self-released; Grade: B+) is the first and last full-length testament to a band whose arty, mostly instrumental "soundtrack-rock" made them a cult favorite on the local scene. The liner notes count 10 musicians who spent time in the group at one time or another, with most of them making their mark on this 12-track collection culled from various sources.
This brand of slow, moody, cerebral music, once dubbed post-rock, is an acquired taste, but Delorean is likely to appeal to anyone with an affinity for the genre. With a typical rock-band lineup augmented by keyboards, violin, and occasionally cello, the music captured here is of a piece but varies nicely from its default sound. "Stealth" is slow, ambient rock that gives way to a Velvet Underground-style rhythm guitar at the four-minute mark. "Jonny Cargo" is a sinister, lurching track cut for the soundtrack for the local film Strange Cargo. "Flat Lux" is 10 minutes of ambient noise. "Sharita" and "Last Words" are straight-up indie rock, with vocals and everything.
Delorean is priced to move at $5 a pop and is available locally at Shangri-La Records and Last Chance Records.
A young Oxford, Mississippi, band with their eyes clearly on the major-label prize, Always Sunday acquit themselves fairly well on their full-length debut Beautiful Disgrace (self-released; Grade: B). Produced by the band and Black Dog Records' Jeffrey Reed, Beautiful Disgrace is a little botched aurally, sometimes marred by vocals needlessly buried under guitar reverb.
There's a rousing rocker trying to escape from the murk on "Love Divide" and a radio rocker on "Pop Rock Star," which has a catchy, sing-along chorus, or would if you could decipher what words you're supposed to be singing. Beautiful Disgrace is clearly a formative effort but one that holds great promise. The band's straightforward, alt-oriented pop-rock sound is mainstream rock in a good way -- hooky and accessible but without straining too hard to sound like what's on the radio. The band will be performing Thursday, June 19th, at Young Avenue Deli, with Low Skies.
You can e-mail Chris Herrington at firstname.lastname@example.org.