local and I’m listening: or, the whale, mp3s, album review, tour dates

promo shot

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.

Or, the Whale – Call and Response (mp3)

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“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.

Or, the Whale – Rope Don’t Break (mp3)

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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

12 responses to “local and I’m listening: or, the whale, mp3s, album review, tour dates”

  1. Oz says:

    Right in my wheelhouse. I’m addicted to call and response already.

  2. adrian says:

    Oz, I was going to email you about them, thinking that you’d like them, but I figured you’d just read it here.

  3. […] Adrian (me): Or, the Whale – Call and Response (mp3) (buy) Oh man, I just can’t get past this song. I’ll put on Lights Poles and Pines (which I talk about here) meaning to listen to the album, but I’ll sort of stutter at this song. It’s something about the pedal steel and the great harmony-laden vocals that do it for me. […]

  4. […] Oz: Cracklin Moth – Eulogy for Bashu (mp3) (exclusive at HearYa) Thanks to Adrian, I’m actually obsessed with Or, the Whale right now,. Over at HearYa, however, we recently recorded a live session in Chicago with a band called Cracklin Moth. They’ve released two EP’s and have a unique alt-country sound, thanks to Matt Ammerman’s vocals and Rocco Labriola’s pedal steel. “Eulogy for Bashu” is a previously unreleased track that is glued to my ears. […]

  5. […] It’s alright, Or, the Whale, I, still, love you. I mean, Google isn’t even the number 1 search engine in China (that’d be Baidu) so screw ‘em, right? […]

  6. […] Or, the Whale – Light Poles and Pines (original post) This wasn’t supposed to be this good. It’s a debut indie country rock album from a San Francisco band. From the first listen, I knew I liked this album: it had great singing and orchestration, catchy songs and a certain energy about it. and I was alternately obsessed with “Call and Response” and “Fight Song” (and “Prayer for the Road” and…). But I say that it wasn’t supposed to be this good because while I was surprised by it, it’s not life-changing or transcendental; it’s just a really consistent set of really good songs. This year I’ve played this album (according to last.fm and that doesn’t count the repeated plays in my car) almost twice as much as any than any other single album. […]

  7. […] Three of my favorite acoustic-based/ folky local bands are playing a set of three events in the upcoming couple months. The bands are Or, the Whale (myspace, local and I’m listening @ ipmn); the Dodos (myspace, local and I’m listening @ ipmn) and Beatbeat Whisper (myspace, local and I’m listening @ ipmn). […]

  8. […] Last night I hosted ipickmynose-fav Or, the Whale (myspace) on KZSU. […]

  9. […] a pretty good bill (with, let’s be honest, sort of bad names). One’s an ipickmynose fav, one I’ve seen before and liked and one’s a band that a friend is a fan o that I […]

  10. […] Listening series. I’ve gotten feedback from a lot of people that I’ve introduced to Or, the Whale. I also particularly like the Lightning Bug Situation and Two Sheds […]

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