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The Twin Ports definitely has its fair share of talented musicians and performers. This weekend will really show the diversity of this area’s music scene with the release of two albums that couldn’t really be more different from each other.
Mary Bue: Holy Bones
If there was ever a proactive musician in the Twin Ports, Mary Bue would have to be on the top of the list. She moved back to the area a few years ago and promptly released the album, “Apple In The Ocean.” Her primary instrument has been the piano and she switches things up with her new album titled, “Holy Bones.” The album still has a feel of her previous work. It’s singer-songwriter material mixed with pop and indie-rock. On this album, Bue takes to the guitar which gives her music a new edge. After a Kickstarter campaign, a grant from the Arrowhead Regional Arts Council, and collaborating with a handful of some of the area’s more solid musicians, the result is certainly something that local music listeners in the area might want to check out.
Bue really has a knack for making things seem positive even though there is a realization that they aren’t always that way. I don’t often get enough into the lyrics of music as much as I should, but they’re a little different on this album. The musicianship is fine but we’re talking about some bar chords with a little distortion held down by a backing band of seasoned musicians and other contributing people there for hand claps and some backing vocals on certain tracks. It was recorded by Eric Swanson at Sacred Heart so there’s not much to really nit-pick on the quality of the mix.
It’s really the lyrics and Bue’s voice that stand out on this album, which is kind of refreshing in a way because I’ve gotten to the point where my eyes start to glaze over when I hear a song about drinking away misery or taking to the road and watching the sun rise.
The album opens with the song, “Candy,” I’ve never known Bue to be unstable, greedy or lazy, but the crux of the song is the chorus, “I want candy, I want money, I want my mommy, I want my daddy, I wanna be lazy.” Yeah, this isn’t the most hard hitting thing I’ve ever heard, but it is possible to somehow relate to it. This is more or less what music is all about; an artist putting themselves out so other people can relate to it.
The next track, “Cheribum,” is a light and fun indie-rock song. “Cheribum’s got all my love letters/she rescued the ones I took to the dump/all the the little bits of sweet nothings/all the piranhas nibbling my heart.” Bringing in the piranhas is certainly an interesting choice of things to be “nibbling” at one’s heart, but it’s also a little original, fun and gets the point across.
The title track, “Holy Bones,” creates some more imagery for the mind. “Take your rings off/take your skin off/stand in your holy bones/up to your sacrum in snow.” It’s slightly unusual, but it does make for something memorable. Really, standing out and having something a little different is probably the best thing a musician or any artist can do. There are really no rules for poetry or lyrics. Actually the more someone tries to seem profound can often make things seem rather the opposite at times.
The song, “Veal,” speaks from an animal’s viewpoint. Again, it’s a little different, but you can certainly get what Bue is trying to convey. “Like a goose nailed to a board becoming fois gras.” I kind of wish this song was more angry than pretty sounding. There is a contrast between how the song is delivered over it’s message. Let’s just say this song was in a different language, you’d never guess the impact that it’s supposed to have. Bue isn’t really an angry person, but she brings in her own take on animal cruelty. This certainly isn’t the band Cattle Decapitation here.
The album as a whole is well done. It’s kind of out there a little bit and I consider that a good thing. Kind of standard musicianship with unexpected lyrics makes this a unique listening experience. From the cool cover art done by Amy Abts to the recording itself, it’s worth giving a listen. Bue will officially be releasing the album at R.T. Quinlan’s along with Anthony Bennett, Chris Koza, The Duluth Dolls and DJ Walt Dizzo on Friday, March 6.
Strictly Hammers: The Red Door
Well, if there’s one way to compare the experimental hip-hop team of Strictly Hammers to Mary Bue, it’s that they are constantly at it with their music. Strictly Hammers didn’t go the route of a fundraiser and hit up one of the best studios in the area, it’s a DIY project. It’s a little obvious that this album was rushed and some of the general recording isn’t at a full level, but what happened is pretty amazing. It combines samples and artists into a weird world of hip-hop and imagination.
The beats and arrangements done by Nick Pawlenty (aka MidiEvil) and the raps laid down by Matt Ihle (Crimson) shows that with each album this pair puts out, it seems to just go further and further. Bringing in rap artists like C-Silence and Willie Diction Makes this an epic rap album. There are unexpected things like having Aurora Baer with Jordan Bissell (aka Deathhook) on the track, “Remember That Time?” It uses a sample from the Alfred Hitchcock television series theme song. It mixes fast raps with a chorus by Baer and Deathhook, “Remember that time…that girl talked shit?”
As far as Twin Ports hip-hop goes, or really hip-hop in general, this album is cutting edge. The only thing I can say is that it should probably be remastered, but in a way, the slightly raw feel just adds to the experience a little bit, but there are some awkward moments in the mix where things could probably sit a little better. There is seriously a ton of things happening on this album and they just raised the bar a little with what is solid hip-hop and underground production. Overall, this is about as innovative as it gets with what they were working with.
There will be two shows kicking off this album on Sunday, March 8. The first will be at Legacy Glass with Strictly Hammers, John Tatum, Po Etikit, Cold Sweat & Jantzonia, Medicate and Dakota Faye Poitra from 4 to 8 p.m. This show is free. The late night, 21+ show, will be at Red Herring and will feature a rap battle. Strictly Hammers will be joined by Low Hi Funk, NonFic, Jantzonia, Cold Sweat and Medicate. It’s hard to saw what will happen with this rap battle since there will be a lot of talented rappers there. There will be a $5 cover and this show will kick off at 7 p.m.