March 26, 2013
This year’s East Nashville Beer Festival was a complete success! I headed over with Lauren and a few bandmates and friends on Saturday ready to be amazed, and amazed I was! This festival has become one of my favorite days of the year, and Saturday did not disappoint. Lauren has a full review of everything over at Old Red Boots, but here are my top picks, with more personal insight:
Top 5 beers at ENBF 2013:
1. Kentucky Ale: Bourbon Barrel Ale
This is consistently my favorite bourbon barrel aged beer. You get a nice woody, oaky bourbon flavor up front, then a subtle hop character comes through, finishing with a lingering bourbon sweetness. It’s a symphony of all the right flavors.
2. Starr Hill: Psychokilter
Easily one of the best Scotch ales I’ve had. This beer is all about the malt- as it should be- but isn’t overly sweet. Robust and somewhat earthy. Color me impressed!
3. Calfkiller: Classic Spider
Calfkiller has burst onto the TN brewing scene in the past few years with a vengeance. All of their beers are fermented with the same Belgian yeast blend, which gives it a distinctive fruity note that says “this is Calfkiller!” Classic Spider was a special blend of their Brown Recluse and a stout, aged in a bourbon (or maybe it was whiskey?) barrel. I’m not sure if this will become a regularly produced beer, but I wouldn’t mind if it did!
4. Rivertown: Roebling Porter
This is a vanilla & espresso infused imperial porter, and it might as well be liquid dessert. It’s chocolatey, sweet, warming and simply delicious. It’s one of their flagships, too!
Sadly, Rivertown doesn’t distribute to TN. Update: turns out Rivertown DOES distribute to TN- you can get them at Craft Brewed!
5. Yazoo: Hop Project #70 Dry-hopped with Stella hops
Yazoo is known for their creative Hop Project series, in which they use the same malt bill, but different varieties of hops at different boiling schedules for each batch. #70 is the latest batch and (from what I was told at the tap) for this cask they dry-hopped it with a unique Australian hop variety called Stella. As I understand it this was a special cask that Yazoo made for the ENBF, but Hop Project #70 used Stella hops during the boil as well, and is available in retail stores now.
Deschutes: Black Butte Porter and Northwest Pale Ale
Deschutes is an Oregon brewery that sadly hasn’t made it to TN yet, so I was unfamiliar even with these two flagship beers. The Black Butte Porter has a slightly nutty character that you’d expect in a nut brown ale, but yet it’s a porter! The Northwest Pale Ale stuck out to me because they backed away from the assertive hop bitterness that most APA’s are known for, and went for a well-balanced pale ale with a nice hoppy aroma.
Left Hand: Smokejumper Imperial Porter
Reactions to this beer amongst my peers were mixed. For me it was a fine smokey, bacon-y porter. I’ve not met a smoked beer that I didn’t like and this was no exception. Some in my group thought it reminded them too much of a campfire, while others wanted more bacon flavor.
Straight To Ale: Hellfire Quadrupel and Monkeynaut IPA dry-hopped with Citra
This Huntsville brewery produces some fine beers. Their Belgian-style quadrupel, called Hellfire, was warming, earthy, and robust. They also had a special cask of their Monkeynaut IPA that was dry-hopped with Citra hops. The tropical fuity aroma was simply blissful!
French Broad: 13 Rebels ESB
One of my favorite styles of beer is a classic English ESB, or Extra-Special Bitter. I was familiar with French Broad but hadn’t tried their ESB. 13 Rebels was an enjoyable and worthy example of the style. Well-balanced and very session-able, as an ESB should be.
Least Favorite Beer:
New Belgium’s surprise quadrupel.
I unfortunately didn’t take note of exactly what this beer was aged in or what was supposed to be special about it. It was a quad that had (I think) been aged in some sort of wood barrels. What I do remember though, is that is was too blatantly alcoholic up front. There are 10, 11, even 12% ABV beers that still manage to not allow the boozy alcoholic flavor to overrun the character of the beer. This one though, just screamed “BOOZE” at my palate. That being said, New Belgium is one of the finest, and also largest craft breweries in the nation. Everything about them pretty much rules.
Happy drinking and I’ll see you next year at ENBF IV!
Heavy Cream is the perfect example of how a band should evolve. When you say a band has “matured” it can often have bad connotations- it can be treated as a nicer way of saying a band has gotten boring or lost their raw energy. That is most definitely NOT the case with Heavy Cream. They have matured, but in an entirely good way. The rhythm section is anchored solidly by Tiffany Minton’s furious and powerful backbeats, Mimi Galbarez’s riffs have gotten more interesting while maintaining that rudimentary charm they’ve always had, and frontwoman Jessica McFarland’s vocals… well, they’ve always been really good and they’re still really good. As for the new album, it’s solid and well-produced. I have a terrible tendency to talk a lot about the production value of albums when I review them on here, but I really can’t help it this time. Ty Segall produced this album and the real victory here is the drum sounds- they’re insane but just right. Distorted but not painful… weird but not too weird. The snare drum barely even sounds like a snare drum anymore… more like pounding on muffled trash can lid at times. But for some reason it works! And the somewhat beefed-up guitar tones actually complement the overall sound quite well. The songs are as catchy as ever- but most venture into a slightly more complex rhythmic territory. There are even a few slow-burners (well, slow in comparison to most of their material at least…) that take the band from their old “girl-Ramones” vibe to a more straight-ahead, fist-in-the-face rock & roll feel that reminds me more of the Runaways. That’s a very obvious comparison but it has to be made. The biggest point I want to make is that this band has done nothing but get better over time, and this new album is the best example. Grab it now via Infinity Cat Recordings.
October 18, 2011
One of Nashville’s most underrated bands is back with a brand new album. The Nobility (formerly Jetpack, then Jetpack UK) just released their latest, The Secret of Blennerhassett Island, and it’s a masterpiece. 2007’s The Mezzanine was their first proper album under the new moniker, and it firmly set the tone for their future as a band. That tone was one of more mature, intricate, and clever songs with a wide array of instrumentation, all with an unwavering pop sensibility. They stated in their own description of the album that they had been listening to early Paul McCartney and Kinks records, and it shows. TSBI (I refuse to type that name again!) is clearly influenced by the same era of pop music, but no matter how obvious the influences are, these songs never get old or tired. I’ve always loved a good marriage of band to producer, and this album is no exception. They worked with Brian Carter of Paradox Productions as they did with The Mezzanine, and honestly I don’t think there’s a better producer for this band than him. The orchestral instrumentation fits perfectly where it’s used, and it’s never over-used. Especially impressive are the horn arrangements. TSBI is easily one of the best albums to come out of Nashville’s rock scene this year, so go get it at their bandcamp page and thank me later. AND go see them at the record release party on
Nov. 14th Nov. 4th at the Rutledge.
July 27, 2011
Remember Nashville’s own bedroom-pop maestro Kyle Andrews and his catchy tune “You Always Make Me Smile” that was featured in that Holiday Inn commercial? Well he’s back with a full-length record, Robot Learn Love, via Elephant Lady on August 16th, and you’ll find yourself struggling to justify that phrase “bedroom” as you listen to it. On this album you’ll find a thick wash of synths, electronic drums, and layered/distorted vocals that catapult Andrews’ sound into another dimension. I don’t know this for a fact, but I’d venture to guess Mr. Andrews is a fan TN’s own Matt Mahaffey and his horribly underrated band Self. The influence is hard to miss if you’re a Self/Mahaffey fan like myself. In fact this album takes on many of the characteristics of Self’s last proper album Gizmodgery, which was recorded entirely using toy instruments (though it sounds fully fleshed-out, example below). You can hear what would seem to be toy-ish sounds sprinkled through various tracks on Robot Learn Love not to mention the lo-fi and other unorthodox recording techniques. It all pays off for Andrews as this record is his most realized effort to date. No mention of tour dates on his website, but if I had one major critique it would be his live shows. Andrews uses so much studio wizardry and layering of sounds on his albums, it’s hard to make that work in a live setting. Obviously you can’t recreate every nuance, but if you’re going to strip it down at all you’ve got to make it work. His live shows have always felt rather “meh” compared to the albums/EPs. But I recommend Robot Learn Love without hesitation.
And just for reference/fun:
Self-Dead Man (From Gizmodgery)
June 2, 2011
The Rosebuds have been around since 2003, and were one of those “awww it’s a husband/wife band” bands. Little did I know that they’d been going through relationship issues over the past couple of years… in fact, Kelly Rosebud packed up an moved to Brooklyn, NY alone. Amazingly, they put their personal issues aside and made a record, which is coming out June 7 on Merge, called Loud Planes Fly Low. I caught the band opening for British Sea Power at Mercy Lounge several years back… 2008 I believe… and I remember it being a pretty good show. Good enough that I checked out their album Night of the Furies. You won’t find any soaring disco anthems like “Get Up Get Out” on Loud Planes Fly Low, but how could one expect that given the circumstances under which this album was made? These songs are much more honest and emotionally charged than ever before, and all in all the album has a more earnest feel than Night of the Furies. But I can’t compare it with other albums because I only have a few tracks from the rest of their discography. Overall this is a good album. Here’s the track “Come Visit Me”:
MoogFest is back in 2011, and the lineup is absolutely phenomenal. I wanted to go last year because A) the lineup was awesome, B) the whole idea was awesome, C) Asheville is a pretty cool town. This year, I just don’t see how I can miss it. All efforts will be made to attend. I mean, just look at this freaking lineup:
December 16, 2010
Local synth rockers The Zut Alors are a shining example of what can be accomplished through Kickstarter. They started a campaign to raise money to press their debut album Boy Girl Pary on vinyl. They succeeded, and now they have the shiny new records in hand, ready to ship. The album is an impressive collection of medium-tempo sometimes dark, sometimes catchy, synth pop/rock. Singer Nick Bennett’s voice is often draped in reverb or delay and fuzzed out with distortion, but always with a clever underlying melody. You can clearly hear a strong Echo & The Bunnymen/Smiths influence on the vocals. Every instrument and layer in every song sounds calculated and precise, and the parts seem to fit together like a puzzle. The end result, though, is a set of carefully crafted pop songs that make an album well worth your money. It took this album a few listens to grow on me, but now I find myself putting it on repeat. Highly recommended.
The album will be available in Nashville at Grimey’s and online at their bandcamp page starting tomorrow, 12/17. Also, they’re hosting a listening party in the Blue Bar at Goldrush this Sunday night (the 19th). The party starts at 9pm and they’ll be selling the vinyl LP (which includes a free download code) for super cheap.
Download- Take Take Take