Author Archives: Ben Chenoweth

The Sportsman’s Club – Falling Scenery Converts

The Sportsman's Club

MP3: Beautiful Night by The Sportsman Club

If the face rings a bell but the name hasn’t yet, it’s because you’re looking at Columbus music veteran Mike Brewer, who’s debuting a collection of home recordings this weekend under the moniker The Sportsman’s Club. Representing the softer side of a guy who’s fronted more rowdy acts like Kola Koca Death Squad and the now defunct Lori, Falling Scenery Converts is comprised of essentially just Brewer and his acoustic guitar, with only occasional computerized fiddling. The recording mechanics suit the style of the songs, which have a purity or bareness which at times gives one the impression of stumbling on a sketchbook of interesting, but not wholly realized ideas. That missing refinement may be in part due to making these songs, as Brewer says “in whatever window life allows,” which in his case means over a span of 6 years and in such disparate locations as a farm road (complete with an all-insect backing band) to a New York hotel room.
Continue reading Favorites of 2006: Ben Chenoweth

Best albums, huh? Well, after compiling a list of almost 50 I thought worthy of at least consideration, it was pretty apparent that I had really listened to too few, and had no idea what constituted ‘best.’ A much simpler question to answer was simply which CDs saw the most action on my stereo, and which ones drained the most life out of my iPod. In an effort generally avoid additional hard decisions, I also stripped out the local acts and put them into their own category. That may be a disservice to a couple of them, as it was a strong year for Columbus bands and certainly a few would have breached my general Top 10. So here’s what I came up with- a dirty dozen plus a few honorable mentions. The best? I doubt it, but it’s what’s been keeping me busy.

1. Band of Horses, “Everything all the time”
Because I’m pretty sure I won’t be alone in this, picking Band of Horses for my number one seems almost a cop out. It’s like voting Troy Smith for the Heisman. While perhaps not undeniable, the consensus surrounding this record does hint at the quality of the songs. I find myself being drawn back to it’s sweeping highs and lows.
MP3: The Funeral

2. Built to Spill, “You In Reverse”
I’m not above admitting that part of my attachment to this particular album is based on a long love affair with Built to Spill, but I think I have enough objectivity (maybe) to suggest that even a new listener might be enthralled with the weird paring of Doug Martsch’s nasal falsetto with the three-guitar rock attack. Rather than repeat myself, you can find my more complete thoughts here.
Video: Conventional Wisdom

3. Silversun Pickups, “Carnavas”
Considering that their debut EP topped my list last year, and that this years full length is generally more of the same, I’d be remiss not put this one towards the top. While sometimes accused of reworking the 90s era grunge sound, the band is far from a retro ripoff act. While comparisons to Smashing Pumpkins abound in the press (of which there’s been a plethora), to me these songs seemed as fresh and energetic as they did familiar. More of my thoughts here.
Video: Lazy Eye

4. Heartless Bastards, “All This Time”
With all the critical acclaim being generated by The Hold Steady this year, the term “best bar band in world” is being tossed about rather casually. Yeah they’re good, but they’re also from Brooklyn- so when I’m looking for something really blue collar, I’d be happy to put the good ol’ midwestern Heartless Bastards up against just about anyone as a soundtrack to my whiskey drinking. The HBs have really nailed it on this one, with a grit and muscle that implies their rock heritage, but also a quiet intelligence and sincerity that might make one think first of Cat Power. The pace and unpretentiousness of this album very much gives it a bluesy, American river-town feel.
MP3: Into the Open

5. Sonic Youth, “Rather Ripped”
I’m sure a lot of music fans have a long history with Sonic Youth, and while I’ve got a cassette of Daydream Nation somewhere, my interest is far from fanaticism. I think that’s in some part due to my feeling that the music they’ve made has always been interesting, smart, and has the air of importance about it, it hasn’t always been that easy for me to listen to. How many times have I sat down to pay my bills or eat dinner and just simply picked something a bit more pleasant to throw in the player? Perhaps the purists will consider me a dilettante for saying so, but this record combined all that is edgy and visceral about SY with a joyfulness and pop sense that actually made me want to listen to it. Over and over, in fact.
Video: Incinerate
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MP3: Church of the Red Museum

Church of the Red Museum
Saturday, October 7th
Carabar, Columbus OH

With a year or so under their belts and the enthusiastic buzz about them on the rise, Church of the Red Museum is striking while the iron is decidedly hot by releasing their first record this weekend. Self titled and appearing via local Manup Records, the album is a frenetic dash through 29 minutes of a Bohemian sounding dirge. Born largely from the reconstituted Columbus band Go Evol Shiki, the reassignment of players couldn’t have resulted in a much more disparate or improved sound. Where GES was discordant and exuberant, Church or the Red Museum plods along in a somewhat less cacophonous, yet sinister sounding polka punctuated by a screaming wail.

For a band of relative newness, they spend a considerable amount of time focusing on expiry. With a vocal griminess and depth that will likely forever be (favorably) compared to Tom Waits, and the heavy somber sounds of pyre-worthy organs, these songs seem forever close to death- or at the very least, calamity. Lyrical content doesn’t do much to dissuade the listener from the theme, as front man Brian Travis sings such foreboding lines as “there’s no escape from the murder in my head…” and “there’ll be a moment of truth before my baby breaks…There’ll be a shotgun blast.” While that sort of tone is almost universal throughout, one shouldn’t confuse the proximity to a funeral with lifelessness. On the contrary, the songs have a compelling drive and energy. That is due in part to interesting arrangements of violin and muted trumpets, crackling guitars, and unusual percussion. While some tracks blend almost seamlessly, others have abrupt changes in tempo or feel within a particular song, so that the listener is held on edge.

In a year of absolute bounty regarding Columbus releases, Church of the Red Museum’s offering will surely be a standout. There’s an urgency, a darkness, and a uniqueness that makes it stick with you. Bravo.

Joining CoRM at the Carabar will be the guitar orchestra/hurricane that is Brainbow, punk blasters El Jesus de Magico, and The Hills Have Eyes.

MP3: Shotgun Blast

MP3: Chris McCoy and The Gospel

photo credit:

Chris McCoy & The Gospel CD Release Show
Saturday, September 23rd
Andyman’s Treehouse

Mr. McCoy has been a respected fixture in the world of Columbus music for years, so to say that he’s just now on the cusp of releasing a debut album seems strange, almost disingenuous. To me he seems very much a veteran, due in part to his long resume of gigs both solo and with a band, and also in no small part due to the feeling of rich timelessness and history that his music evokes. His songs are crafted with a nod towards and older folk, even soul, tradition, where lyrics detail the bottomless sorrows of heartbreak and the highs of exultation. The songs have the fortitude to stand alone in the sparseness of Chris’s solo performances, but when fleshed out by the rather talent-packed backing band The Gospel, they take on the whip-cracked energy of American rock and roll vigor. McCoy is an able penman, but probably most noted for accomplished guitar playing and his lustrous, suede-like voice. He waivers between haunting and downright moving as he progresses from whispers to a full on howl. The backing band is aptly named, as there often is a spirituality, almost revival quality about some of the songs, and the name rightly implies a certain soulfulness apparent in the music.

The long awaited album to be released on Saturday, Colder Chicago Sept. Hymns, does a nice job of incorporating all that range of volume and emotion. Several tracks show the stripped down side of McCoy, while others have the whole band cranked up. The backing band often highlights the dueling guitar licks of Chris and Matt Wagner (Earwig, The Bygones) and the piano and accordion of Jess Faller (Celebrity Pilots). Mark Miller and Matt Carter solidify the back line on bass and drums. For this particular special night, The Gospel will be joined by the multitalented, folk maestro Jerry Dannemiller (Moviola) who will sit in on guitar and lap steel.

Opening the evening will be the ever-talented and entertaining Townmen, who have held down their own corner of Columbus rock and roll real estate for years. Their shine hasn’t dulled a bit. The room is small and the event will be one not to be missed, so consider that in your planning. See you there.

MP3: “No Devil” by Chris McCoy and the Gospel

Donewaiting Review: Built to Spill, “You In Reverse”

B000EGDN40.01.MZZZZZZZ.jpg It’s not like I’ve got some foundation of journalistic integrity to preserve, but I guess for the sake of perspective, it’s probably fair for me to admit my general affection for all things Doug Martsch. I mean, let’s face it- I’d probably listen to a recording of him hitting golf balls at the driving range. So count me as one of the many who’ve been anxiously waiting the five years since their last release for some new material. After several days of almost continuous listening to You In Reverse, I’m happy to report that my patience has been well rewarded.

For a band who’s earliest intentions were to be a revolving cast of characters to solely provide the vehicle for Martsch’s songwriting, this, their sixth studio album, seems to be much more about a cohesive group of players working together to find and make their sound. There is a warmth, an almost organic texture, that might make the listener believe they were hearing an analog tape of a live session. The result is a collection of songs that may be more stylistically related to earlier guitar-heavy recordings such as Perfect From Now On, as opposed to the more recent and poppy Ancient Melodies of the Future. Gone is the evidence of slick production and overdubs that were part of Melodies and Keep It Like a Secret.
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