Magnetic Flowers, People Person Release New Albums

About two weeks ago the long-awaited (well, at least I’ve been waiting for it for a long time) new album from Columbia, SC’s Magnetic Flowers was posted online somewhat quietly, and I’ve been absorbing it since then. This week marks a slightly noisier new release from another Columbia-based band, People Person. The one-two punch of this potent pair of local bands packs some serious potential and at the least shows the depth of talent and forward-thinking musicians in this sometimes backwards town.

magnetic flowers old cold

Magnetic Flowers’ latest Old, Cold, Losing it is true to their densely elliptical, wordy and inspiring past work while building on that foundation with new sonic techniques. It’s almost not fair to compare the new songs with the band’s prior work since those earlier songs have lived in our ears locally for long enough to become sing-along anthems at their live shows, but I’ll just say that there are a few tunes here that will certainly rise to that status with time. “Dial Tone (…)” jumps out immediately with lines such as “I hope when I’m dead that my books will be read,” repeated with multiple voices and variations on the same theme like an indie-rock “Row, Row, Row Your Boat” singing round.

It’s on “Trout Fishing In America (If a Man Can Eat An Airplane)” where things start to get weird, as the spare synth-like guitar and keyboard figure blips and bleeps under singer Pat Funk relating a bleary-eyed, psychedelic dream of a story. Of what, I have no idea, but it’s compelling in its oddity.

“Whittle It (God Bless You Ernest Becker)” is another aural soundscape with voices used more like instruments in the mix, atop spare percussion and some theremin-like noises.

Just when you thought the band’s post-Replacements spunk had been subsumed by esoteric production values and highfalutin’ concept, “Dirty Grounds (Old, Cold)” rips out of the ether with a breakneck tempo and bastardized Simon & Garfunkel style  “ba-da-da-da-da” on the quickly building choruses, until the breakdown collapses into lines that culminate, “I’m laughing now, because I finally remembered how…”

This one’s going to take a while to sink in fully, but the joy of discovery that has marked my consumption of previous Magnetic Flowers songs will no doubt repeat here, with the bonus that the production values are the best the band’s ever come up with, thanks to Jay Matheson at the Jam Room and a crisp, clear mastering from Kenny McWilliams at Archer Avenue.




Dumb Supper Album Art

People Person is fronted by the punk pixie persona of Jessica Oliver (also the drummer for Can’t Kids), someone I once described as Shirley Temple on acid. Her Goldilocks-style appearance is deceiving, however, as she can snarl and spit cutting couplets with ease. For much of the new album, Oliver tends more toward the sweeter-sounding side, indulging in fuzzy girl-group sounds that borrow from surf rock, the Ronettes, and the Pixies. Like another sonic signpost, Dinosaur Jr., there are melodies in the mayhem that will have you humming along to tunes such as “Portions For Fatties” or “I’m Slimy”, and the production is clean enough to finally hear what Oliver can do as a vocalist, which is quite a bit.

It’s the variety of sounds and textures that surprises the most. The knowing, sly technique of “It Bugs Me, It’s Nothing” melts into the multi-tracked vocals of “Up and Done It”, which boasts a Breeders-worthy bassline from Adam Cullum (Also a member of Magnetic Flowers and Can’t Kids), and then there’s the quiet paisley pop of “Frances”, like a refugee from the 80’s Southern California psychedelic college rock scene.

Whether it’s the new sounds from old favorites Magnetic Flowers, or familiar influences via a new voice in Jessica Oliver of People Person, either way it’s a great indicator of the creatively vibrant indie rock scene that is present in Columbia currently.

My Favorite Local Albums of 2009

I write about music from all over the place for publications and websites that are also all over the place, but I’ve had a particular fondness for the music of my own backyard here in South Carolina, and especially in Columbia. Here, then, are my favorite local releases of 2009:

My Favorite Local Albums 2009

Kenley Young, Standard Candle
Smooth, slick, and sparkling guitar pop.

Magnetic Flowers, What We Talk About When We Talk About What We Talk AboutA glorious mess of an album, like a train barely able to remain on the tracks.

Haley Dreis, Beautiful To Me
About as perfect a pop recording as any to have come out of Columbia.

American Gun, The Devil’s Right Hand
Mark this as the one where Todd Mathis’ twangier material shines the brightest and truly begins to define this band.

Zach Seibert and the Red Wagon, Learning To Drown
The year’s most pleasant surprise, a sweetly rendered, rough-hewn gem.

Justin Smith and the Folk-Hop Band, World Unknown
Less hop and more rock made this a local radio hit, with good reason.

Treadmill Trackstar, I Belong To Me
File under “Welcome return” and turn up the volume.

The Unawares, Pinkie Greene
Raw, unassuming, yet immediate and melodic.

Hannah Miller, Somewhere In Between
Columbia’s most mesmerizing vocal chords.

Danielle Howle, The Swamp Sessions
Stripped down to just her voice and guitar, Howle still delivers.

Various Artists, Christmas At Red Bank, Vol. 1
Perfect local-centric addition to the holiday music mix, with some great takes on classic carols.

New Blog for local show reviews

Missed a local band recently, or did you go but wonder what somebody else may have thought of the show? A couple of local music fans have started a blog that’s promising to focus on reviewing live shows from local bands in the Columbia area, and so far they’re off to a good start. Here’s the link, which I’ll also put over there —->
in the links section for future reference.

With little to no space devoted in local print to post-show reviews of the local rock scene, a new outlet like this one is a welcome addition to the mixture of media coverage on local music. Now, get out there and support your local musicians!

Favorite Local Music of 2008

Just as in the national releases, the local musicians here in Columbia, SC had a banner year for new music. The biggest trend, from my perspective, was the increasingly professional quality of the CDs from local artists–not just the few with some form of label support, but even the self-released product was of extremely high quality.
The other trend for me was the inclusion of almost all new artists on the list. There were a few ‘veteran’ acts, like American Gun, and solo projects from locals more commonly associated with full bands, but the overwhelming majority of the year’s best music came from rookies like punk upstarts You, Me, and Us. That’s a great sign for the overall health of the local scene, and hopefully it’s a trend that will continue to grow.

Top Local Releases of 2008

Nick Pagliari, Please and Thank You (PalagreenO)
A newcomer to Columbia, Pagliari’s prior experience shows on this tight package of alt-country and power pop tunes.

Hannah Miller, Into The Black (self-released)
The first full length release from this local songwriter combines her spiritual songwriting with some serious pop grooves courtesy of a pro Nashville production.

You, Me, and Us, Beer Can Rebellion (self-released): Punk rock the way it was meant to be—loud, proud, loose, and fast .

The Private Life Of David Reed, Misteps and Miscommunications (Chamberlain)
Former Closer front man’s first solo release, it tones down the band’s pop-rock formula and draws out the emotional core of Reed’s songwriting.

American Gun, The Means and the Machine
The best set of tunes yet from the pens of Donald Merckle and Todd Mathis, Columbia’s best one-two songwriting punch in a single band.

Toro Y Moi, My Touch (Fork and Spoon): One of three separate projects from Heist & the Accomplice member Chaz Bundick in 2008, it’s the loudest and spaciest, drawing Daft Punk comparisons with some funky, unpredictable electronic grooves.

Daylight Hours, How To Make a Mess of Things (self-released): Former Courage Riley front man David Adedokun covers a lot of emotional ground in this first ‘solo’ album; his tender vocals belie real hurt and pain in songs like “The Truth About Girls.”

Marry A Thief, I Am Dying To Outlive You (self-released)
Eric Skelton has an uncanny gift for marrying melody to lyrics that results in the kind of memorable songs on this too-short set.

Daniel Machado, Themes In American Friction (Self-released): Hands down one of the most ambitious rock albums to come out of Columbia in years, and it works beautifully.

Friendly Confines, Remember When ( self-released): I remember a year or so ago when I heard Rob Lindsey was looking for a full band to play with—this is what he found, a sympathetic, rootsy complement to his own unique songs.