There has been some talk about SF band Or, the Whale (myspace), but it wasn’t until Lindsay from the band (who I’m guessing get their name from the full title of the Melville book Moby Dick or, the Whale) emailed me a little bit ago that I finally got around to listening to them. A few days later I had their full, debut album Light Poles and Pines.
I’m not sure what I expect, but it wasn’t this…Bands that are big in the SF scene don’t sound so…country. (People may call this alt-country but really they just mean country that’s not bad.)
It’s made up of a bunch of fairly ordinary elements: this will probably not be the only album you hear this year with good lead and harmony vocals. It’s probably not the only album you’ll hear with cohesive and interesting instrumentation, nor will it be the only one where the songs sound different enough that it’s interesting but not so different you’re left wondering if you’re listening to the same band. This may however be the best use of pedal steel guitar you hear this year. I’d like to shake Tim Marcus’ (OtW’s pedal steel player, and, I think, also a member of the previously mentioned Blammos) hand for that.
But you put it all together and it’s an album that I want to listen to over and over again with nuanced songs that are really enjoyable to listen to. It also shows quite a bit of maturity for a debut album.
The album starts off with “Call and Response.” My only complaint with this track is that it makes the rest of the album hard to listen to because I’m always pressing back to hear this again. It’s a mid-tempo song with upbeat, almost shuffling drums. The vocals, laden with harmonies, and the pedal steel work particularly well in this song.
“Rope Don’t Break” is one of the ballads of the album. It’s in a fairly slow three with female lead vocals. The tight male harmonies work really well as does the fairly sparse instrumentation, leaving plenty of room for the voices and pedal steel to float on top. The way a band handles a ballad often shows a lot about them; Or, the Whale succeeds on this ballad.
I feel like perhaps the one misstep of the album is “Bound for Home.” In this people-from-the-city-make-country-music realm, there’s a fine line appreciation over which one gets into irony. I feel the gut bucket bass sound and guiro just step over that line too much in this instance. It’s probably not intended that way, but I can’t manage to hear it otherwise.
Overall I’ve been really liking this album. You can buy Light Poles and Pines for $10 at their myspace page (with Paypal).
Those of us here in San Francisco will have two chances to check them out live:
7/20 Or, the Whale, Dame Sata, Snowblink @ Hotel Utah, $6
8/25 Or, the Whale, Birds and Batteries, Social Studies @ Great American, $12 [what a bill!]
Check out the rest of their nation-wide tour dates after the jump.
Here are the rest of their tourdates for those of you not in the Bay Area:
Jul 20 2007 San Francisco @ Hotel Utah Saloon with Dame Satan and Snowblink
Jul 28 2007 San Diego @ Scolari’s Office with The Vision of a Dying World and The Silent Comedy
Jul 30 2007 Austin @ Hole in the Wall with Sick Science Project
Jul 31 2007 Austin @ The Mohawk with The Gougers and The Charles Potts Magical
Aug 1 2007 Denton @ Secret Headquarters with 100 Damned Guns and Spitfire Tumbleweeds
Aug 2 2007 Memphis @ Young Avenue Deli with Giant Bear and Arma Secreta
Aug 3 2007 Chattanooga @ JJ’s Bohemia
Aug 4 2007 Athens, GA @ Caledonia Lounge with Tin Cup Prophette
Aug 6 2007 Champaign @ WEFT Live In-Studio
Aug 7 2007 Muncie, IN Village Green Records with This Story, Dust From 1000 Years
Aug 8 2007 Louisville @ The Pour Haus with The Town Criers and Daniel Duncan
Aug 9 2007 Athens, OH @ Casa Cantina with Casual Future and Silo Circuit
Aug 10 2007 Pittsburgh @ Thunderbird Cafe with Local Honey and Phat Man Dee!
Aug 11 2007 Brooklyn @ Goodbye Blue Monday with Dear Dead City and Tirra Lirra
Aug 12 2007 NYC @ Cake Shop
Aug 13 2007 D.C. @ The Red and The Black with Revival and the Pinebox Boys
Aug 14 2007 Philadelphia @ World Cafe Live with The Extraordinaires and The Bee Team
Aug 15 2007 Somverville @ P.A.’s Lounge with Brown Bird
Aug 16 2007 Burlington @ Nectar’s
Aug 18 2007 Ann Arbor @ Farmhouse Party with Chris Bathgate, Great Lakes Myth Society, Canada, Frontier Ruckus
Aug 19 2007 Chicago @ Beat Kitchen with Ash in Pensacola, 500 Miles to Memphis, and TBA
Aug 20 2007 Champaign @ Cowboy Monkey with Ryan Groff (Elsinore)
Aug 21 2007 Omaha @ The Slowdown with Capgun Coup
Aug 22 2007 Denver @ 3 Kings Tavern
Aug 23 2007 Provo @ Velour with Kid Theodore
Aug 24 2007 Reno @ Fort Ryland with Kid Theodore
Aug 24 2007 Reno @ Satellite with Crushed by Jefferson, Kid Theodore, and Back Harlow Road
Aug 25 2007 San Francisco @ Great American Music Hall with Birds and Batteries and Social Studies