Monday, December 17, 2012

WRAPPING UP 2012 with Whistle Peak

Whistle Peak is pop music in disguise” says Karate Body Records, label and home of the Louisville, Kentucky band. And indeed it is difficult to pigeonhole these electro-folk “children’s stories told by grown men”. Writing about the album in February, I cited Panda Bear, Beirut, Joe Henry, Eels and Tuung as various reference points on different tracks. Americana UK’s take was: “if the Folk Implosion had imploded they’d sound like ‘Land to Land’, but don’t think that these are inward looking indie fan-boy songs. Yes, ‘Sleepy Pants’ does sound like the Flaming Lips in restrained mood but ‘Play the Ghost’ contains some of the same DNA that makes Gnarls Barkley – notably the combination of dance music, soulful vocals and a leftfield sensibility.”

Maybe best to say the five-piece just sound like themselves? Either way I was wowed by “Half Asleep Upon Echo Falls” calling it a “buoyant and luxuriant experience: eleven tracks of melancholy-tinged Vaudevillian alt-pop floating on banjos, xylophone and egg-shaker with washes of electronic flutter and mechanical scrape that soothes and surprises”. Here three of the band - Billy Petot, Michael Snowden, Jeremy Irvin – shared their thoughts on the last twelve months:

What we will remember most about 2012 is...
Billy: I had a baby this year. And UK winning the NCAA was pretty awesome. I'm really proud of the album, of course.
Michael: I also had a baby, which is pretty unforgettable. Watching the record gain traction and making a bunch of new friends while working to promote it has also been great. No matter where things go from here, 2012 will always stand out in my mind as a watershed year for the group.
Jeremy: My lady and I got engaged in Zion National Park, in Utah. One of the most exciting moments of my life, set to the most amazing scenery I've ever witnessed. Let's not forget our single, "Wings Won't Behave," jumping to over 50k listens, practically overnight...

What should be forgotten about 2012...
Billy: Mitt Romney
Michael: Who's that?
Jeremy: Paul Ryan, who, by comparison, made Romney look like a Saint.

The best gig we played was...
Billy: Our album release show at Zanzabar in our hometown, Louisville. And we had a good time at Radio Radio in Indianapolis, though we could have played better.
Michael: Our show with The Cave Singers last Spring was really enjoyable. We played well, the Cave Singers killed, and the crowd was fantastic. Good times.
Jeremy: Record Store Day, at Please & Thank You, here in Louisville, KY. Due to capacity constraints, we were asked to perform a 'stripped down' version of our set, which resulted in what I believe Billy dubbed "acoustelectronic." 80's synthesizers and drum machines paired with acoustic instruments. It came very naturally for us, and if we could ever make it across that grand pond, I believe this would be an efficient way for us to tour Europe. There's a video of "Big & Bright" from that evening, it's floating around the Internet somewhere; check it out.

The best gig I saw was...
Michael: Just saw Lindsey Buckingham play solo earlier this week. Incredible.
Jeremy: Damien Jurado performed here in Louisville, as part of our own WFPK's "Live Lunch" series. These shows are always free, and the station really opens its arms to a wide range of artists. This was definitely my favorite show of 2012.

A record from 2012 that will be still be played in 10 years time?
Billy: I am pretty sure I'll be listening to Bro Stephen's "Baptist Girls" for that long.
Jeremy: "Arrow" by Heartless Bastards.

Overlooked in 2012?
Michael: Big Fresh's “Moneychasers”, without a doubt. It's a solid album from one of Kentucky's most underrated bands.
Jeremy: Red Parole” by Seluah. Label mates, and fellow Louisvillians, these guys kill it at their live shows.

And what can we look forward to in 2013 from Whistle Peak?
Michael: One thing you won't be seeing is more babies. Just new music... my vote is for the melancholic dance album of the decade.
Jeremy: An album FOR babies, BY babies. Or at least for baby-making practice sessions.

Before 2012 I really only knew Louisville, Kentucky as the birth place of Will Oldham. Now thanks to Karate Body Records and the name-checks above, I have a whole new world of Louisvillians to explore. And in Whistle Peak an excellent new favourite band who stand apart from any clumsy musical references. “Half Asleep Upon Echo Falls” does have worldwide distribution but if you have difficulty tracking it down Karate Body ship internationally (including the teal-coloured vinyl!).

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