What’s wobbly, world? The words of this post are comin at ya from the bootiful Peaks Island, ME, but the bootiful musica this post contains is courtesy of Kenyon musicians. The bands are: Pinegrove, The Young Crooks, and Kid Winter. This’ll be along one. Here goes.
First off is Pinegrove, comprised of Evan Hall on guitar and Nandi Plunkett on percussion. Both croon. Both, sadly for me and other Ohio fans, just graduated; hopefully they’ll go on to ¡make mas musica! The former, generally, has some form of head ware — my favorite being the headband. I picture tabs of acid inside its folds. The latter dons stylish black glasses and bangs on her drums cooly, mysteriously. I can only assume their band spirit animal is the mantis shrimp (pictured above).
Their four songs — On Jet Lag, DAYS, Metronome, and Recyling — are emotional, marching, surprising. Their Mixtape One is soothing, stirring, and triumphant. Listen to it, HERE, top-to-bottom, with the pauses, as the artists intended. Tell me what ya think. There’s also one song, My Reckless Parts, a bucking piece of primevality, seemingly by Evan himself?, on their facebook page. Shit’s somehow mesmerizing.
The highest and flyest band with a cool low-fi flow, The Young Crooks, were formed in 2010 and have been playing together for a year now; Win Dunham and Mikey Bullister freshmen, Edik Sher a sophomore. Their first gig at Kenyon College was an impromptu unveiling… in a laundry room. Needless to say, shit was hot. (Rocking out atop those washers and dryers, keyboarding and beat-boxing like the funky fiends they are, I’da paid an admission fee of so much more than the $3.50 it costs to do a load of laundry.) That was back in their early days, when weekends we would wear our “Snow Coat,” watch the world, just smoke dope — and it was oh-oh, so, beautiful. (Rocking out atop those washers and dryers, keyboarding and beat-boxing like the funky fiends they are, I’da paid an admission fee of so much more than the $3.50 it costs to do a load of laundry.) Since, they have put out a five-song EP entitled PHONE.
The Young Crooks list a myriad of influences, from The Notorious B.I.G. (big pop-pa) to The Velvet Underground, Arctic Monkeys to MIA, The Radio Dept. (dream-pop) to Jamie T (dude’s awesome; bass-driven free verse brit-blues), Vampire Weekend to Jimmy Cliff, The Cool Kids (low-fi hip-hop) to Outkast. And that’s the abridged version.
They describe themselves as “Dream pop, plus reggae and hip-hop,” and Win calls it “slacker pop.” Adding, “It’s pretty hard to stick in one genre.” Luckily, there are ways other than genre to characterize a band. Win provides what might serve as a key insight: “Our band spirit animal is a penguin smoking a j. Seriously. It has to be smoking a j otherwise we don’t fucks wit it. Pothead penguins only.”
PHONE is the fruit of all three band members’ labors. Edek laid the foundational beats, Mikey played the gui-tar, Win wrote and spat the words while tickling the keys. The EP is decidedly low-fi, optimistic but by no means antiseptic. “Lyrics about love, drugs, and kids these days,” it boasts. Listen here, I think you’ll find it hard to disagree.
Moreover: listen, hear— the abandon. Whether it’s of the heart, utter and complete, as in Sucka Stand Up (Intro). Of all responsibility, listen to it dissipate in Today, because “It’s all okay / We’re just dumb kids anyway.” Or abandon of all sobriety, between “dropping acid like an Aztec” and “40s from Catherine” and “30 milligrams of Ritalin in the minivan;” and of all mortality, “I want to be kid man I won’t never be killed,” in Young Sons.
In Wasting Time, we eventually get the feeling that the gig is up for The Young Crooks. With their hands raised and a smile on their face, there’s an abandon of the chase: “I think I’m giving up and I’m giving in, too.” But they assure, “I’ll get the money, you’ll see, not gonna fall through.” Then, in these final, sage moments of PHONE, steam rising from the piano-and-snare pounded pavement like after a sunrain, not an abandonment of childhood, but a slight turning, and acknowledging, of what’s to come: “And we’re all growing older, but dear, we’re growing up, too.” But it’s all okay – not because we’re just dumb kids anyway – but because of the addendum, “And I don’t mind wasting my time when it’s with you.”
This year, or at least the first half of it, The Young Crooks will be touring the mid-west, based outta Texas. Unfortunately it’ll just be Mikey and Win, losing Edek’s beat-dropping abilities, but hopefully employing Mikey’s beat-boxing. As Win described it, “We’re gonna do a two-person show with Mikey playing guitar and fucking with a laptop and I’ll be playing keys or maybe even a keytar.” I’ve seen hip-hop artists Blueprint and Budo successfully utilize these toy-looking lightweight keyboard-guitar instruments; Win could kick some serious ass with one. “It’s gonna be pretty crazy. Were trying to get some shows together in Austin, plus we’ve got some gigs in Fayetteville, Memphis, LA”— and hopefully to Kenyon again.
We welcome you back, with hearts as open and warm as dryer-doors.
Finally, I bring you Kid Winter. There’re some (now-)familiar names in this band: Win (drums), Edek (bass), and Mikey (guitar and vocals). Joining them, most crucially, is Rhodes Sabangan on guitar and Lily Zwaan on trumpet. They both sing, and they both have a special way of greeting you from afar, and of saying dude like it’s spelled with five o’s, and Rhodes wears red pants and looks like Scar and Lily’s just the jolliest and– They’re just really great people.
And, not so coincidentally, they just make really great music. Their Bus EP contains four tunes full of sincerity and fun and energy. Mikey said each song was spearheaded by a different member of the band, accounting for the different sounds in the tracks. One of my favorites, Sunnyside Up, is especially gleeful. You can hear it when Lily says “I’m so readyy” at the start of the track, or as she growls the chorus, or in the growling guitar grooving along or when the acoustic kicks right into the trumpet blaring through it’s just so bloody good! It’s also, I think, the most professional sounding track on Bus.
Kid Winter plays catchy music. Ringing, swinging the rifts so that they reside so easily in your ear; easy enough for even the haziest memories. Big City Strut’s whu-o! whu-0! whu-o! whu-o! w-a! triggers something in the gut, something that you can’t and don’t want to get out. Rhodes trounces this song on the vocals, too.
I happen to like the title track, as well, but I may be slightly biased. Yes, there’s the opening lyrics, so sultry in their lament, and perfectly paired with the guitar picking and electric licks. But, for me, there’s something else. Y’see, I may or may not be in the song’s chorus — the yelling of the “Hey!” — I took part… I’m just not sure if they used the take I helped out on. I’d like to think they did.
For whatever reason you have, and you will have one, I know you will enjoy la musica de Kid Winter. Once you figure out what reason that is, share it with them. They’re good people, and would probably love to hear what you have to say.
The breathless End.