Local Record Review: 'Carny Life' by Pebaluna
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*Local Records Review: 'Four Steps in Corsets' by Yellow Red Sparks
It seems that RX Bandits are getting as well known for their individual projects as much as their collective work and longevity. We recently profiled the continuing work of C-Gak, now there's a new band's debut album out with Matt Embree playing guitar and contributing vocals. But Pebaluna -- either a pun on Petaluma, some sort of moon rock reference, or both -- isn't just him or him as bandleader by any means, being essentially a new group with its own almost surprising appeal. Surprising, in that after another summer of Too Many Dully Obvious Indie Rock Records, it's always nice to hear something that simply works. Part of the appeal of Carny Life is the constant feeling of engaging playfulness as opposed to the sense of enforced campfire singalong -- and vocalist/guitarist Lauren Coleman, a veteran of the Sound of Animals Fighting along with Embree and C-Gak, is the key here. Possessed with the kind of understated but strong and clear voice that would win attention on its own, she can just as easily bust out into a full-bodied performance -- "All Falling Down," the opening song, steadily shifts into a near anthem.
The sweet duet of "Baby What's Wrong" between her and Embree and the barn-burning live-in-a-room acoustic kick of "Honey" are other showcases, while "Siren Song" has her calmly singing over something that should be from a spooky spy movie circa 1966. Jessica Lankford's drumming is another key factor -- the brush shuffles on "No I Can't" aren't simply driving the song but also accentuating it along with everything from finger snaps, moody bass and Coleman's own performance It's sometimes startling -- in a gentle way -- how well the members are dictating mood as a team, such as when the somewhat darkly contemplative "Sister Sara" fades out and then the perky reverie that's the title track gently swings into life. Add in some summery soul moves on "Hopeless" and garagey r'n'b on "Please Me" and just maybe this is the album for everyone that actually pulls it off.