Whistle Peak - "Half Asleep Upon Echo Falls" (Karate Body Records 2012):
Whistle Peak was described to me by a pal of mine a few weeks ago as one of "Louisville's best kept secrets." We had been talking about a recent show the band had played at Zanzabar which had blown my mind. My only exposure to this band was a seven-inch the band released in Summer 2011 as part of the Louisville Is For Lovers Seven Inch Series. I had missed the Whistle Peak performance as part of that slew of gigs. After seeing the Zbar show, I grabbed the seven-inch and devoured it at home. It became one of my favorite releases of last year and one of my go-to records at a low-lit 3 AM.
The band formed in 2007ish, and released an album in 2008. After some lineup changes, the band put out the aforementioned seven-inch, and are now ready to release the new full-length "Half Asleep Upon Echo Falls" digitally, on CD and teal-colored vinyl on February 14. According to bassist Mike Snowden, the official release party will occur March 3 at Zbar.
"Half Asleep Upon Echo Falls" fulfills one of those holes discussed by a me and a friend of mine at a rooftop top show at Glassworks over the summer. Louisville offers a wide span of bands playing a wider span of genres, but in the last few years, well-made and structured pop music seems to be somewhat lacking. It does exist here, though. This niche is starting to fill with releases by bands like The Deloreans and Second Story Man, and upcoming material from Adventure and former Yardsale singer-songwriter-multi-instrumentalist Kirk Kiefer. Whistle Peak's album will definitely become one of the new markers and gain the band some well-earned attention.
The song "Elephants" is a lo-fi low-profile number that sounds like a child's playday soundtrack. It throws jacks with its lo-fi poppiness somewhere in the same veins that bring to mind the switch in sound the Flaming Lips decided to embark on in the late 1990s. I'm not meaning the sounds are similar, but the penchant to play with the structure, ideas and sketch of what a song can be on paper as opposed to what it can turn into when tested.The melody is seemingly simple, and the description of lo-fi gets lost away from its own definitions as various layers of instrumentation become a barrage of short-hand experimentation. This philosophy can be applied to much of "Half Asleep Upon Echo Falls." Several varied elements are coalesced together to create a sound that moves and sways and ultimately sticks. It's got some pop, some folk, electronic sounds, and all that would be great as is. However, Whistle Peak has pushed a little further and mixed the elements up into a beautifully produced grab bag that makes sense.
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"Us Two Can Play" harbors itself comfortably in a catchy tune, but the addition of the gigantic plodding percussion like the hoof of the elephants from the previously mentioned song crashing through the beat makes the piece an entirely different creature than just a really great catchy tune. "Sleepy Pants" offers a pretty composition that brings that dream-like quality the band has become known for, and like much of the album, toes the scope of mirth and sadness, never quite molding into a sugary tune, but resonating a seriousness within its four minutes. It comes off as one of my favorite tracks off the record.
I'm a sucker, though, for the ukelele-driven "In a Boat on a Lake." If it had stuck only to the uke and bells, it might have roamed into twee-land. But it ain't that. Its just contagious and infectious, which is why its so perfect in its layers. And it strays from labels like good music should. And the following march of reverie that is "Sailor" fits perfectly.
For a sample, check out the first single, "Wings Won't Behave."
"Half Asleep Upon Echo Falls" will be released on February 14. Pre-orders can be taken here. Whistle Peak will play at Zbar March 3.