The SoundDiego Record Club features some of the best new musical releases from around the county. Read on and listen in.
The Tree Ring, releases Sept. 16
Move over Henry David Thoreau, there’s a new guy in town: Joel P. West, the mastermind behind the local chamber-pop group the Tree Ring, has crafted a dazzlingly delicate paean to nature, owing as much to that famed 19th-century poet as he does to the soft, wandering folk of artists like Nick Drake or Sufjan Stevens. While “Ten Rivers” is hardly the only album contemplating the beauty of the world around us -- and the love we share with each other while we’re in it -- it definitely ranks as one of the best. The band’s latest effort expands and magnifies the lushly detailed earnestness they delivered on 2011’s “Generous Shadows” and the 2012 follow up, “Brushbloom,” its ten agrarian tracks owing to an intricate thematic atmosphere -- which is not altogether surprising considering West’s skill at scoring films (hear him at work in independent films such as “Short Term 12,” “It Starts With Me,” “About Alex” and “I Am Not a Hipster”). But here, the music does take center stage, and it’s stunning: These mostly acoustic folk-pop songs rise and fall with the subtle pounding of bass drums (“Beside a River”), heaving strings and harp plucks (“Tunnel View”) and the pulse of angelic harps encircling barely there horns and twirling flutes (“The Snowline”). Of course, horrible songs would render all that instrumentation useless, and that’s where “Ten Rivers” elevates -- songs like “The Color Up in the Hills” capture every pastoral flourish perfectly, with a heavenly verse/chorus chord progression lifted by West’s occasional, soft, celestial falsetto. The Tree Ring are set to bestow their last live performance upon the Irenic on Sept. 17, and it’s only fitting the band take their final bow at a church. Faced with the group’s resignation, we’re reminded of Thoreau’s “Walden”: “I went to the woods because I wished to live deliberately, to front only the essential facts of life, and see if I could not learn what it had to teach, and not, when I came to die, discover that I had not lived.” [Buy it here]
"Under the Spell of Joy"
Joy, released Aug. 19
If anything, the San Diego psych-rock band Joy are walking students of the age-old phrase, “Jack of all trades, master of none.” The lysergic-loving jam trio doesn’t wander about genres, trying their hand at whatever style is in vogue -- rather, they do basically one thing and do it better than anyone else. “Under the Spell of Joy” is the group’s sophomore studio album and their first on Tee Pee Records, the psych-rock/stoner-metal world’s ground zero -- and home to such bands as Graveyard, Earthless, Harsh Toke, Sleep and the Shrine. Appropriately, the deafening gauntlet of heavy psychedelia that Joy (featuring guitarist/vocalist Zach Oakley, bassist Justin Hulson and drummer Paul Morrone) threw down with their 2012 self-titled album is buried even deeper here. Vocals, which pop up here and there, warble and oscillate down endless underground caverns; fluid bass lines rumble over tracks like a boulder careening out of control; massive, rollicking drums thunder throughout, anchoring the band’s molten ebb and flow. No riff is left unturned. Taking cues from Cream, Hendrix’s Band of Gypsys and Blue Cheer, the band blast through extended headtrip-inducing jams like “Miles Away,” “Confusion” and “One More Time” with an unruly fury. Oakley must have a wah-wah pedal cemetery at home, as the effect itself nearly becomes an unofficial fourth member -- the back-and-forth rock of shrilly highs and murky lows is gloriously featured front-and-center across the album, lending a frenzied pace to an already voluminous, fuzzed-out guitar wail. The bottom line? “Under the Spell of Joy” is a ferocious testament to the chest-shaking power of rock & roll -- and a truly enchanting one at that. [Buy it here]