The latest in a series of reviews of Lehigh Valley-area online music releases.
Somewhere in south Bethlehem, there’s a house that’s going to live a long time in the memories of the people lucky enough to know where it is.
Its inhabitants call it the Coven. And it’s hosting shows all summer by independent bands from the Lehigh Valley and beyond.
(At least, this is what I’ve deduced from the interwebs. It could be an elaborate fiction meant to trip up outsiders like me — like that fake list of Seattle grunge slang the New York Times fell for back in ’92. Yes, perhaps they will be swingin’ on the flippity-flop down at the Coven this summer.)
Anyway, this past week, the folks involved in the Coven posted a 12-song compilation of the bands slated to play there, like a postcard from the happening. (The weather is beautiful; the tunes are bitchin’; wish you were here.)
So what’s on the menu?
– The first three songs (by Frameworks, Voyage in Coma and Dead Gods) make it clear that there’s gonna be a fair amount of raw-throated shrieking going on at the Coven this summer.
I wrote in my last post that I personally don’t like that style of singing; and in the last two days, my opinion hasn’t changed.
Still, the songs’ instrumental touches kept me listening.
Voyage in Coma’s “Predation” melts down at one point, sailing almost beyond key and pitch into a riptide of thrashing instrumental energy. It only lasts 10 seconds, but it’s great while it’s there.
And Frameworks’ “Old Chokes” adds a mournful-sounding, horn-toned keyboard line and sleigh bells into the mix, with positive results.
– It’s probably no great surprise that the poppier tunes grabbed me more than the thrash did.
Ringing pop — some hard, some soft — is well-represented on the Coven’s playlist, with Prawn’s college-rocky “Praxis,” Tiny Teeth’s pop-punk “Shapes” and the Infected Flies’ “Astro Pastro Zoom” all carrying the banner in memorable ways.
“Astro Pastro Zoom” (no, I don’t know what it means either) is my pick hit among the more melodic tracks, combining Hammond organ, a laid-back-to-the-point-of-jazzy rhythm section, and charming schoolboy lyrics. (Is “I could use a fairy-tale specialist / To help defeat the trolls of Santiago” the lyric of the year?)
– Actually, I take that back. The Tallboys’ “Manhattan & Driggs” is my favorite tune here — an eighty-second acoustic strum-along driven by a rowdy, scuffling snare-drum rhythm that’s implied as much as it is heard.
(“We go outside / We share a smoke / We ruin our throats / With everything we do” is another great line — one of those tossed-off bits that is either subtly profound, or says absolutely nothing. The best kinds of lyrics, those are.)
– A couple singer-songwriter types are scheduled to drop by the Coven as well.
Most notable among them are Alison Lutz, whose love lament “On My Back” I would have liked just fine except for my aversion to ukuleles, and Marco Polio’s “The Struggle,” a firsthand description of — mental illness? drug addiction? general failure to thrive? — distinguished by its singer’s unsettled Lou-Reed-meets-Fred-Schneider vocal quirks.
I can’t direct you to the Coven; you’ll have to do your own research. But I can tell you, based on this mix, that it sounds like a good time.
The Coven’s Summer 2013 mix album is available as a free download here.