Three local albums are featured in this foursome of listening delight.
Set The Table, Falling Hollywood's 2012 debut LP – a raw mix of folksy indie pop-punk and gritty boot-stompin' rock – proved the foursome could craft an entire album out of catchy, thoughtful songs. 2013's sophomore follow-up, Heavy Weather, proves they can do it again – and do it better, and heavier. The vocals – from even-tighter harmonies of guitarists Matt Flowers and Nick Taylor to stronger distinctions between the two when separated – draw listeners in to darker, more mature lyrics ("Blood Against The Wall" and "Breaking Bread"), while the fuller soundscape populated with thicker guitar work, Bill Frackowiak's delightfully busy bass lines ("Mexican Wine"), and the churning engine of Brad Triana's drumming ("Vicious Fishes") result in a more refined Avett-Brothers-meet-Frank-Turner-and-drink-with-the-Black-Keys-and-Arctic-Monkeys rawk. Album closer – and standout – "Heavy Hands," with three-part harmonies and organ, hints at even greater potential and even bolder material on the horizon. - Ben Speggen
Even jazz is not immune to the effects of guitar-dominated rock culture; as a non-traditional bassist, Tony Grey is more than capable of carrying the load on his own, but on Elevation, his fourth solo album, some heavy-handed axemen join him – the immortal John McLaughlin, Berklee grad and PACA "regular" Nir Felder, 'burgh native and Winger/Whitesnake member Reb Beach, face-melter Tomoyasu Hotei, the blood in Blood, Sweat & Tears Mike Stern, and "Screaming Headless Torsos" leader David "Fuze" Fiuczynski – all of whom draw Grey out of – and, into – his happy place on every track, like the ethereal "Floating River Yangtze" (Fiuczynsi), the harried "Galactic Samurai" (Hotei), and the uplifting title track (Beach). Intense and intentional yet light and lighthearted, the album closes with a unique cover of the cool Disney classic and Miles Davis favorite "Some Day My Prince Will Come." For a really mellow, thoughtful high, give Elevation a spin. - Cory Vaillancourt
While New York indie pop band Cults is still together, principal members Madeline Follin and Brian Oblivion are not. The previously dating duo broke up before recording Static, Cults' sophomore album, so it would be quite understandable if the results felt rather awkward. Instead, it's hard to tell that the two have drifted apart, aside from a few lines here and there. Static starts off well, with breezy introduction "I Know" leading to poppy standout "I Can Hardly Make You Mine." "So Far" grabs your attention right away, as Follin sings "I wonder how you sleep at night" amid a squall of 'oohs' and 'aahs'. After that, many of the songs start to blend into a blur of warm reverb. It's by no means a bad batch of tracks, but Static lacks the power track that Cults had with 2011's "Go Outside." - Alex Bieler
If a roving band of gypsy-folk-roots ramblers hopped out of a dusty ol' boxcar and started belting out archaic-yet-powerful string-based lamentations and exhortations, would you listen? Erie says 'yes', as evidenced by the popularity of seasoned local musicians Matt "Broke" Boland, Dom DeCecco, Abby Barrett, and Digg-It Dave, who recently came together to form Potwhole, a gritty quartet evocative of depression-era Appalachian-esque minstrelry. Featuring upright bass, mandolin, and viola in addition to Boland's growled, sung, and shouted vocals – which always contain a nice mix of vulnerability and Stray Cats sass – Potwhole's first album isn't so much a series of songs as it is a series of powerful stories. Raucous, bombastic, fast, and loose at times but soft, subtle, slow, and tight at others, this album is a must-have for those seeking regional authenticity and local intensity over the manufactured posh and polish of the usual pop crap. - Cory Vaillancourt