Bear Claw, English Teeth, Red Leaves, and the Eastern Sea
Reviewed by Audra Schroeder, Fri., Jan. 29, 2010
Bear Claw's four-song vinyl one-sider for local multimedia imprint Monofonus Press displays a long-forgotten axiom: that music, as a package, can be a piece of art, to be enjoyed as such. The songs were culled from a recent cassette-only release by local singer-guitarist Nigel Rainey, who even has the perfect name for his kind of music. Supported by melodica and drums, "Needle and Thorn" and "Romantic Period" recall the 1980s sad-wave of the Smiths without aping it. Rainey's folkier musings keep things from getting too morose. LP, please. Influence from across the pond also comes via quartet English Teeth, whose five-song debut says up front what these guys are mainlining: 1960s Brit R&B. Opener "Catastrophe" and follow-up "Invasion" bring out the Kinks, and "Cursed" repurposes the guitar riff from the Stones' "Can't You Hear Me Knocking." Red Leaves drop four on the floor with Trouble in the City of Water, showing how much they've matured musically since 2006's All the Zombies EP. Then, the Austin trio was still finding its sound, dancing awkwardly. Here, on EP No. 3, the now-quartet combines its powers, locking into more structured rhythms and imbuing songs like "Ghost Paws" and "Deadweight" with lovely pop tones. The Eastern Sea's second EP drops a quartet of songs, spelling out some sort of code: "The Mountain," "The Sea," "The Name," "Your House." The group's sound has also matured since its first EP. "Your House" especially unwinds with ease, and "The Name" steps outside the confines of folk to dance, if a bit awkwardly.