huge thanks to Jon, Aubin, Brian, and the entire Punknews staff!
Review by: JonDaley
**** (4/5 stars)
It seems that the majority of “folk-punk” bands like Ghost Mice and Defiance, Ohio remain relatively underground operations, garnering devout fanbases for their passion but are critically ignored. On the opposite end of the spectrum, “indie-folk” personalities like Okkervil River and Will Oldham tend to gain more widespread critical acclaim and more widespread popularity. Looking perhaps to bridge the gap between the firebrand enthusiasm of the former and the depth of the latter comes New York’s O’Death.
The banjo is quite a joyful instrument; to make it sound mournful must be quite a task, but from the opening plucks on “Down to Rest,” O’Death succeed in just that. The gang vocals that repeat "lay me, lay me, down to rest, down to rest," give the sense of a chain gang. In fact, each song on the album could very well be confessions from such a rogues gallery moving along on their way to damnation. Head Home isn’t a completely sackcloth and ashes affair however, for if the old-time radio vocals, thumping bass and frenzied drumming of “Allie Mae Reynolds” don’t make you grab your partner and do-see-doe, you may have already left the land of the living. Coincidentally, “Rickety Fence Teeth” may make you think just that, being anchored by jangly crashes that resemble jug band found sounds and vocals that would be similar to a preacher singing for a traditional screamo band. A great deal of the time the vocals on the album sound like they are made by a quivering out of tune drunkard, which works for this kind of music, but when main vocalist Greg actually attempts to sing well (see: "Jesus Look Down"), he proves to have quite the pleasant voice.
When one thinks of home, words like “natural,” “inclusive” and “whole” spring to mind. O’Death evoke similar mental images with Head Home, as each part of the record fits together tremendously. For instance, the previously mentioned gang vocals from “Down to Rest” return in the second to last song “Nathaniel” to bookend the album before it closes with the creaking instrumental of “Gas Can Row."
If you are indeed a fan of Americana folk and want something that will spirit you away with a more frantic feeling than you are generally used to from other indie-folk bands, O’Death can provide that. If the fancy strikes, you may also want to throw on your best brogue and say “hey bartender, Irish up this death will you!” or not.
also next weekend!