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Monday, December 20, 2010

St. James Tavern

St. James Tavern is an inconspicuous little bar on 4th Street and Detroit Avenue in Italian Village. I first came here when I was 21 or 22, but didn't really return until I was 24 or 25 (my polish brother, the legendary Brett (from foid, Hotel War, and Vietnam II: oOo! Shameless name-drop!), lived on  Detroit so we would walk to the bar frequently). There are two pool tables, chairs and tables all around, and a long bar with stools. They don't serve food, they don't have shitty cover bands, and (most importantly) they don't have a TV.

What they do have is great beer, great prices, atmosphere (something that is seriously lacking in most every other establishment in Columbus), and the best jukebox in the city.

However, all of that has been said by other people already. What is new? What hasn't been said about St. James Tavern yet?

  • They specialize in imports and microbrews; especially the rarer high alcohol content ales. The Bourbon Barrel Stout is ridiculous.
  • My friends and I got a nice special price on Beck's Dark because they were trying to get rid of them. Fine by me; I give those Hessian bastards a new home in my tummy!
  • Three kegs of Affligem Noel are available in the city; St. James has two of them.
  • The clientele is predominantly college hipsters; although a faithful older crowd of former college hipsters fills in the gaps on off-days.
  • The place is dark. The lighting is kept to a minimum, but not to the point where you get squinty trying to strain your eyes. The music is loud, but not overbearingly loud. It creates a very intimate atmosphere even when the place is jammed with people.
  • Wood covers EVERYTHING.
  • There is graffiti in the men's room that says something along the lines of, "This isn't a ladies room; keep the seat up." 
  • Speaking of the Men's room; it was stocked with soap and paper towels! 
  • I know nothing of the Women's restroom except from the few, instinctive and unintentional peeks I got while playing pool at various visits. Dude's can't help that reaction. It's not that we're being pervy, it's just that the Women's room is like the last frontier for men; an unexplored mystery where women (who we are most interested in but can't seem to understand) seem to congregate (and, we think, to talk about us).
  • Simpson's Pinball. That should be self-explanatory.
It seems as if it has been Winter, late Fall, or early Spring every time I've been there. I associate the place with visible breath, scarves, and floppy knit hats.

You can find St. James Tavern online on Facebook, Twitter, and their own website. Facebook and Twitter are updated frequently, so those are your best bet to find out what's on tap on any given day.
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Thursday, December 9, 2010

Spruce Campbells - The Lessons We Learned From Ghosts

Jason of the Spruce Campbells told me this is their "pop" EP.  While it is certainly more poppy than their previous two EP's, it can't really be called poppy compared to the conventional wisdom's idea of pop music sound. Just like their previous two EP's, this one is full of gorgeous music that sounds both strikingly familiar yet substantially different than anything you've heard before. They are playing at Skully's tomorrow night, which is the official release of this EP. I recommend you go and buy it along with their previous two EP's - you will love them.

Star Girl -Very catchy. Probably the catchiest song on the record.  Lyrically, it isn't particularly poignant, but I doubt that it's meant to be. Jason's vocals are reminiscent of Crash Test Dummies, while Chelsea's have that sexy, smokey sound; they compliment each other perfectly. There is only one hiccup in the song - after the third verse, "gonna getcha, getcha, getcha, HEY!" doesn't seem to really fit; at least to my ears. It by no means ruins the song, I just don't care for that line.

Hell O's - I love the opening guitar, and the drumming is definitely poppy (and good). The conversational style of the singing should be trademarked by The Spruce Campbells - I really like how Chelsea and Jason go back and forth with the lyrics. Jason asked me which song I think should be the single, and I pick this one. It just seems so accessible and (ignoring the lyrics only because they are kind of depressing) is simply a fun tune to listen to. Which actually gives the song layers of depth you don't hear much anymore - a fun, happy sounding song with sad, buzzkill lyrics. Nicely done, and well played sirs and madam.

With You - This song has a distinct 50's pop sound. Like it could be played during the school dance in Back to the Future. I wonder what it would sound like with 3 female back-up singers. They could be named "The Sharlene's," and stand 6 feet behind Chelsea and wave their hands in front of them while they sing. Listening to this makes you want to go necking with your steady in the front seat of a Dodge at the dead end of Lover's Lane.

A Farewell - The counterpart to With You, A Farewell sounds more like the general sound of the first EP than the other songs on this disc. This is a death song; two lovers saying their final goodbyes. It is sadly sweet, and probably the deepest, lyrically, of the songs on the record. This is also my favorite song out of the four (followed closely by With You). Jason sings lead, with Chelsea backing in a beautifully soft undertone.

The Spruce Campbells around the internet:
Bandcamp - listen to the album for free

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Monday, December 6, 2010

Darynyck - The Chaotic LP

New post title format - how evolutionary!

Today's review is of Darynyck's newest release; The Chaotic LP.  Daryn and Nyck switch lead vocals and instruments throughout album, and all the songs were recorded by the two in various basements and attics.

Listening to this album, it would probably lead you to believe that Darynyck are heartbroken and depressed individuals. It's a stark contrast to their live performances, where they are cheerful, fun, and very personable.  The songs on The Chaotic LP are beautiful in their simplicity, and absolutely gorgeous in the feelings they evoke in the listener. These are themes that most people have felt at one point or another, but are difficult to put into words.  Darynyck has found a way to express and deliver these themes and feelings in a surprisingly upbeat style that manages to remain honest without seeming condescending.  I think I love this album.

Make Some Music - A primer on starting a band because, "you're tired of working for the man."  I could totally see this song being played on Sesame Street by a band of muppets to teach kids about playing music.  It's a sweet, fun song that's just enjoyable to listen to.  It isn't full of profound or deep lyrics, or overly complicated compositions.  It's just a couple dudes making music.

Working Hard (Going Nowhere) - Light, fast-paced, with simple arrangements.  The song pretty much asks the listener if it's all worth it?  Going to college to get a job, working hard, but you never know what's going to happen, do you?  What is time well-spent?  What is really worth it?  It's a rhetorical question, obviously, but lyrically this song is a stark contrast to the previous track.

Chaotic - Interestingly, one of the first songs I heard from Darynyck a few years ago. Although the liner notes say it was recorded in 2006, so I guess that shouldn't be surprising. Acoustic pop with lots going on in the background - tambourine, claps, harmonica.  Nyck sings, with Daryn and guest Gabe; on backing vocals.  I've known my share of chaotic women and this song reminds me of all of them. However, I have to wonder; is the behavior really chaotic? Or more like indecisive?

Pure and True - Different style than the previous tunes. Different feel; more like a traditional folk song. The whistling complements the rest of the music; in most other songs by other artists that contain whistling, it is often used as a centerpiece of sorts - and usually sucks.  Not here.  The lyrics remind me... unfortunately they remind me of myself and a past relationship in a lot of ways.  I listened to this song a few times; just reminiscing about the past and how I'm glad I'm sane after all that happened.

Same Old Song - Another simple and straightforward tune with some cool guitar effects that do not overshadow the singing.

Pieces - Jesus, another song that seems to be ripped from my own experiences.  I'm starting to think that Darynyck are telepathic and have scoured my brain.  Or are these themes more universal and shared than I previously thought?  Beautiful song in a tragic way.

Now or Never -Quick tempo, still going along with the theme of complicated love and sad, failing relationships.  Now I'm convinced they've been stalking me and taking notes.  This is a gorgeous song, but kind of hurts to listen to, as it strikes too close to home.

Alive - This is another song that is slowed down, downcast in mood, and full of honest feeling. 

Waiting (Did It Again) - "Well it looks like I fucked up, I did it again..."  I think this is the only song with swearing in it, and that conservative usage really adds to the power of the word.  While on the surface it doesn't seem like it, this song seems bitter to me.  Bitter at the narrators feeling of being at fault, and bitterness at hoping for something better. I may be wrong, but art is up to the interpretation of the audience, right?

New City Lights - A song about moving on.  The singing wraps around the beat rather than being subordinate to timing (which is how 99% of all rock songs are), which is pretty neat.  The music is upbeat and a little quicker in tempo than most of the other songs on the album.

Last A Lifetime - A departure from the styles of the previous songs.  Much more focused on the lyrics and singing, rather than the instrumentation.

Without You, It's True - The perfect closer for the album.  The last line sums up not only this song, but the entire feeling of the album; "I hope you'll come around." 

If I had heard this album a year ago, it would have never left my CD player and I probably would have cried everytime I listened to it.  I know some people who could use the catharsis, and I will be passing this on to them.  Buy this album, borrow it from a friend, just find a way to listen to it. It is well worth it.

One last thing; My favorite Darynyck song is I'm So Sad (which DID help me through a rough patch), unfortunately I'm So Sad is on the Sasquatch Sessions, which is an album I do not have, nor have I listened to. Someday I hope to rectify that.

Darynyck on Sonicbids, Myspace, Youtube, and CD Baby

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