CooBee Coo “Melodies from the Farm”
by Derek Cooper
Gilbert-duet CooBee Coo’s self-produced debut album, “Melodies from the Farm”, is the obvious result of organic, thoughtful songwriting that relies on genre-bending and soulful harmonies, both of which have come to envelope Arizona sound.
Recorded at the duet’s own converted 1950’s style ranch house turned modern day studio, “Music from the Farm” has much to offer listeners searching for both variety and a finger to the pulse of Arizona indie.
The Studio at the Farm is not new to those familiar with the Arizona scene. KC Barras and Jesse Morrison, the two experienced studio technicians and musicians behind CooBee Coo, have used their talents to record many local artists. This influence is evident in the opening vocal hook of “Vegas Town”, the album’s opener: an intentionally paced, gradually swelling start to an album that moves genres effortlessly into “Sir”, a song with catchy vocal melodies and blues guitar reminiscent, at points, of the Black Keys, while still staying something all their own.
The melancholy piano opening to “Sour Days” is sweet as can be, eventually flourishing into a full guitar-toned jam before pulling back to vocal-harmony saccharine. “Where’d you get your name?” they both coo. Upon hearing, it is obvious.
“This dream was worth the wait. Don’t make me leave this dream” beckons the vocals of “Mr. Morning”. The slow minimalism in the initial offering gives way to a full scale break halfway through, and the half-tempo release will have you humming this hook through Summer. The slow strolling guitar riff under the beautifully layered “Shoot an apple off my head” lyrics of “Tamara” will have you humming them for longer. The haunting vocal swells and guitar in the second to last song, “Snake In the Gravel” evoke a sense of lonely-on-the-prairie mixed with the emotional determination that can only come from weeks of weariness.
It’s hard to separate CooBee Coo from their recording process and studio. They’ve said this record was a conscious decision to leave out conventional loops and production values, instead keeping in line with their live, organic sound. What’s left is a full album that flirts with dream pop, makes out with rock, and takes blues home back to their place for a full night and possibly breakfast. Their stylistic versatility is only complemented by their emphasis on musical self-reliance, casting aside the overproduction that seemed so prevalent in popular music only too recently. I can only hope they didn’t get blues pregnant. Or maybe hope they did, as a few little CooBee Coo’s running around could only be a good thing.
“I wonder where I’ll be going when I say goodbye” exclaims “The Things Above”, the final song on the album. Good thing you don’t have to say goodbye: you can listen to and download the full album on their bandcamp page. Check out their blog for insightful articles on music today, what’s happening at the Farm and when to catch CooBee Coo again.
Avery EP Release
by Derek Cooper
Tempe-based Avery is obviously at home in the desert. For those that have spent any significant amount of time in the Valley, this record certainly puts a sound to the restless, familiar, cautiously-optimistic-yet-lonely-on-the-prairie feeling that living in a place where no one is originally from will cause. There is something to be said about the particular arrangement of the band in pulling off the fully realized inflection of the material in this folky, lo-fi, sometimes up-tempo but not quite upbeat 5 song EP Avery has put forth. The songs sound simple enough during the initial listen, only to have the darker tones resonate once familiarity with the material sets in during later listens. This produces a subtle but very rich bittersweetness to the Avery EP, which is truly a strong showing for a band seeking to define not only confessional inner conflict, but the feeling of nearly an entire young desert region.As the record takes it’s first breaths the brisk pace of the guitar strumming of opener “Lovers” sets the tone, one of self-reflection and simultaneous mystification at the reality of it all, the weariness of realizing for the first time just how this life got to where it now is. “Lovers in love like a gift from up above / I’m losing sight. / It’s hard to see everything in pink / when it’s been black or white.” Vocalist and guitarist Mariah DeRaet’s low and controlled crooning drips with feeling, and on top of the underlying string patterns of Allison Galbreath contrast against the sweet, lullaby-reminiscent sound of a distant glockenspiel, the ingredients swell together to create an atmosphere of true self-reckoning. The song finds itself with more confidence than it began, with a note of hope in the later lines “It’s hard for me to believe in anything / but all my reservations are slowly unraveling. / You could be it for me.”
Single “Hospital Call” quickly bounces to life with the lines “Tried to write a love song / but it all came out wrong.” In detailing the story of an increasingly alienating relationship, the listener is privy to one-sided comforting words of someone trying to assuage another’s demons while realizing they may be in over their head. “Now you call me from the hospital / say ‘my head is sick and my heart is less than full’ / Say ‘everything’s gonna be alright / just get some sleep tonight.’ / I should take my own advice.” The driving feel of the song, coupled with lead guitarist Brad Mitchell’s slide guitar accentuating each verse, is reminiscent of a country song while still maintaining it’s own identity. It’s through this that Avery manages to display class and true musicality while still feeling modern.
“The Mess Inside” gives the album a halfway break towards a bit deeper, more weary, slightly down-tempo song. Meandering and intentionally half-spoken lines almost attempt to say more than the phrases allow. You can feel an inner tension–nearly ready to burst–at the need to express the confessions contained within the song, culminating with the hook “But I cannot run. / And I can’t hide / from the wreck we made of our house, / from the mess inside.” Rich, sorrowful cello swells pull the ear to feel precisely what the words mean.
“I’m not saying there’s nothing wrong / You can tell by the cigarettes I’ve smoked.” A catchy melody and backing harmonies push next track “Chain Smoker” towards nearly optimistic territory, neatly balancing out the album. “And you make it easy / to get rid of fucked up memories. / I’m not saying I did my best. / I could use another drink and you could use a little rest.” Here, in between the light shakers and not-quite poppy hand claps one realizes that sometimes a relationship doesn’t need to be utopia to be worthy of thankful reflection. The EP is closed out with the beautiful track “Pictures”, which is Avery at it’s most gravity-inducing. Drummer Eric Estrada’s subtle groove sets the pace under soaring strings and guitars that balance the palette of Avery’s gorgeous vocals, invoking a feeling of true longing and loss, the kind that lingers well after the ending of the record.
The Avery EP is a rich, balanced, and well executed showcase of a growing band that has quickly become one of Tempe’s mainstays. The songwriting and chemistry evident throughout the album allows listeners to easily relate to the seamlessly created atmosphere. Avery truly is at home in the desert. And the desert is truly at home with Avery.
Avery will premiere their EP tonight, February 1st, at the Sail Inn with special guests Future Loves Past, The Riveras, Tres Lunas, All My Friends, B.O.T.S., and Playboy Manbaby. The show is $10 at the door and starts at 8 p.m. You can also find the Avery EP on their bandcamp: http://averyazmusic.bandcamp.com/