Rainy days and Mondays always got the Carpenters down, but here at Reverb, we think Monday is pretty cool because it’s the day when we get to give away great music made right here in Colorado. It’s Steal This Track day. This week, we’ve got a funky electro jam from Juno What?!, lush space pop from the Morning Clouds and gutter folk from Slakjaw. Let the thievery begin!
If you’ve been paying attention to Colorado music over the past decade or so, the name Dave Watts is probably familiar. Most notably, he has manned the kit and helmed the ship for the Motet, a jazzy, jammy ensemble with six albums and an international following to its credit.
About three years ago, Watts and his Motet comrade Joey Porter started a funky, synth-driven party band called Juno What?! Early on, they were joined by Big Gigantic‘s Dominic Lalli, but now the ensemble is rounded out most of the time by Steve Watkins. The resulting dance party — the disco fever child of Chromeo and Steve Kimock — is captured expertly on the band’s 2011 second album, “Shameless,” which certainly lives up to its name.
With irresistible bass lines, tight-as-a-turtleneck beats and talk-box vocals, the album surely and shamelessly panders to the pelvis, almost daring you not to dance. And though, at its heart, “Shameless” is a dance record, Watts, Porter and Watkins still allow a little room for jazz improvisation and spontaneity, without rambling off into jam territory. Steal the title track and you’ll see what I mean. You can then download the whole album from the band’s website.
Josh Wambeke might not be a familiar name, but he’s been a fixture in the Colorado music scene for more than a decade. In the late ’90s, he teamed up with Patrick Porter in the psychedelic rock duo Phineas Gage. Later, he took that sound in a My Bloody Valentine-inspired direction with Fell. Lately, he’s been most visible as a member of Jim McTurnan and the Kids That Killed the Man.
As if Wambeke didn’t have enough to keep him busy, he is now working on a solo project called the Morning Clouds, with a debut EP, “Wasted Youth Blues,” on Bandcamp, available for whatever price you think is fair. He wrote every word, played every instrument and recorded every sound on the record, and all with great success. It’s a complex and undeniably pretty piece of work. Melding the musician’s love for all things shoegazey and spacey with a decidedly melodic approach and well-contained, ’60s-esque pop song structures, the five songs on the EP are sweet, sticky, savory and satisfying, like meat-flavored saltwater taffy, and that sounds really good to me. Steal “The Wrong Things” above to hear what I mean, then give Wambeke some cash for the EP on Bandcamp.
Where the Morning Clouds sound is characterized by subtlety and lush sonic layers, Slakjaw is all about getting back to the grubby, rusty, jagged basics of hobo hillbilly music. Junkyard instrumentation like kazoo, washboard and gutbucket bass (that’s a broom handle, a clothesline and a metal washtub) add authenticity to the Denver quartet’s musical obsession with riding the rails and drinking whiskey. Slakjaw’s music celebrates the original hobos of the ’30s, when large quantities of laborers hopped freight trains in search of work in the wake of the Great Depression.
While Slakjaw has developed a hometown following for its raucous, heartfelt live shows, the band’s latest EP — recorded at John Macy’s studio with Nick Sullivan — perfectly captures all that energy, while still leaving the rough edges and nicotine stains intact. Like a night in a boxcar, the ride ain’t smooth and it gets a little breezy sometimes, but the freewheeling, old-timey spirit of Slakjaw’s music is hard to resist. For a taste, steal “Whiskey Train” above, then turn out for the big release party at 3 Kings Tavern on Apr 29.
If you like Steal This Track, you’re gonna love Steal This Track: a Reverb Dance Party.. Normally at the Hi-Dive, this month, we’re moving next door to Sputnik for April’s party, with special guests, giveaways, drink specials and more. In the later hours, DJ Savior Breath (a.k.a. Reverb’s own Eryc Eyl) turns the shindig into a pants-dropping dance party. And just like Steal This Track, it’s absolutely free. You won’t want to miss it.
Please note that downloads offered via Steal This Track are intended to whet your appetite, and are NOT CD-quality recordings. If you want those, please support the artists by buying their music and/or seeing them live.
If you’re a band or musician ready to expose your fresh sounds to the readers of Reverb, email your tracks — along with any interesting facts about them, as well as a photo or album art — to Eryc Eyl for consideration.
Eryc Eyl is a veteran music journalist, critic and Colorado native who has been neck-deep in local music for many years. Check out Steal This Track every Monday for local music you can HEAR, and the Mile High Makeout every Friday. Against his mother’s advice, Eryc has also been known to tweet. You can also follow Steal This Track on Twitter. Sorry, Mom.