Influences can be what you make them. For instance, I spent most of my formative years playing hockey and reading Silver Surfer comic books. I pretty much listened to whatever was given to me on the radio, and was pretty sheltered artistically. It was okay for what it was, but I look back and think that maybe I did it wrong. I feel as if I’ve grown a lot over the past few years, but I spent a long time in kind of an artistic blind spot, that I have to work extra hard to catch up. Despite my attempts to become more learned, I still come across something that surprises me, yet somehow everyone else in the world seemingly knew about it years before me. I didn’t listen to Neutral Milk Hotel until 2008. I didn’t really know who Amadou and Mariam or Fela Kuti were until probably this year, and I feel really dumb about that. Hell, I actually sat down and listened to an entire Lou Reed album for the first time, like, two years ago. These aren’t things I am proud of and very likely kill my credibility, but it is the unfortunate truth.
So, when I listen to a band like In Rooms, I know that I like it, but at the same time I wonder what I’m missing out on. Their style is classic pop with a reggae or world music tinge. However, it is recorded in a seemingly unique way, so as to sound grainy and lo-fi, even vinyl sounding despite being digital. The instruments are untraditional as well, with mandolin and organ being the main ones, as well as lots of percussion. There is even a track, “Chuva” with some almost Parisian accordion which is pretty neat.
Their influences are pretty obscure to me, though, and I feel like just by saying that there is going to be a huge backlash towards my intelligence. They say they are a cross between King Tubby and Mercedes Sosa and, well, I had to Google both of them. The first track on their self-titled EP, “Deves Estar A Chegar”, is a cover of a Portuguese band called Oioai (off topic: does anyone else listen to songs in another language and try to sing a long, even though you are definitely butchering someone else’s language? Just me? Very well, then). So, to say I was coming in cold, is a humbling confession to make. I’m sure there are a lot of people out there who knew right away when I said those names, and honestly, I envy you for that. If that makes me unqualified, then so be it. I also feel like there are acts that sound like this, but maybe I am wrong and this really is a wholly unique experience.
But here is what I do know, In Rooms sounds really cool and I like them. They are way different than most other things I listen to. The reggae tempo combined with the graining recorded sweetness of Heather Young with the bed of unique musicians and instruments provides for a stunningly powerful, yet completely do it yourself vibe. Through all the unrecognizable sounds, though, there is something comforting about them. While the sound is unique to me, there still seems to be lots of familiar rhythms and beats. Vocal and lyrically, they on occasion harken back to 50’s doo-wop. It it weren’t for the reggae beats and world influence, I would say a couple of the songs, like “Pumpkin Pie” or “Sofi Song”, fit in just as well on KIOA as it does anywhere else.
It is neat when you stumble across something like this that is made in your hometown and also makes you want to see what else the world has to offer. It is like a slice of home and a reminder that there is so much more you haven’t experienced. Humbling, and motivating all at once. Also, it’s just good music to listen to.
Try Not To Miss Shows 4/26 – 5/2
Pictureplane w/ Alphabet, Trouble Lights and Little Ruckus – 4/26 Wooly’s 9pm
I don’t know a lot about Pictureplane, but what I’ve heard has been great. For me, this show is all about the Fairfield bunch. Go see Little Ruckus and Trouble Lights if you haven’t yet.
Clocks and Clouds w/ Brother Trucker and The Steepwater Band – 4/27 Vaudeville Mews 10pm
Really cool orchestral feel with amazing violin and cello, but still with a contemporary vibe to it. Awesome sound.
BBU w/ Aeon Grey, 2 AM and Gadema – 4/28 Vaudeville Mews 10pm
80/35 vets return with their brand of smart, yet slightly dysfunctional hip-hop. With them are two of Des Moines best including Aeon Grey. Known for his beats as much as anything, Grey is also a very adept and intelligent MC.
Locusic Live – 4/28 DG’s Tap House (Ames) 5pm
For those unfamiliar, Locusic.com is a service where you can listen to local music on your computer, streamed for free. This is very cool, and you should frequent it. This is a live show with multiple genres to kind of showcase what you will find on the site. Lesbian Poetry, Maxilla Blue, Best of Fools, Workshy and so much more.
Bella Verona w/ Ladysoal and Seedlings – 4/28 House of Bricks 930 pm
I like all of this. However, you should probably catch Ladysoal while you can. It won’t be too long before they’re huge.
Handlebar w/ Superchief – 5/2 Gas Lamp 9pm
Handlebar and Superchief play awesome loud rock n roll and you should respect and honor that with your presence.