These days, for many people in country music's mainstream - and beyond it - the genre's version of "sexy" is corny. Rump-shaking dudes in man buns beckoning women who frankly feel a little harassed into their flatbed Fords... At their worst, country's 21st-century dreamboats operate on the principles of hair metal, mixed with CrossFit. That's the stereotype and the perception, anyway.
Every month, NPR Music asks public radio personalities around this country to name a new favorite song and, this month, KOSU featured Oklahoma City band Tallows.
Tallows' aptly titled second album, Waist Deep, is full of water wordplay, with phrases like "drowning in excuses" and "wash it all clean" weaving through the lyrics. Continuing with that theme, the Oklahoma City band played its album-release show a few weeks ago in an empty swimming pool at a historic Presbyterian church. Local crowds are partial to Tallows, too, as the band's lush, frenetic sounds have been triggering rousing singalongs and dancing masses at its live shows. Pulling from influences like Modest Mouse, American Football and Pinback, Tallows' songs blur the space between math rock and electronic rock. But if you're not ready to make a decision on Tallows just yet, that's okay. Jump in halfway — the water's fine. —Ryan LaCroix, KOSU's The Spy
After starting out in the punk scene, Oklahoma singer-songwriter John Moreland decided it was best to start writing about himself. That attitude, and a new Americana sound, helped lend depth and honesty to his new album, High On Tulsa Heat. Moreland's World Cafe session is one of the most unexpectedly beautiful in a while.
"Let's get heavy," Other Lives frontman Jesse Tabish jokes before launching into an explanation of the dichotomies behind the band's new album, Rituals. Conflating old and new styles, while also exploring the balance between humanity's primal nature and an isolating modern world, the Portland-via-Stillwater, Okla., band's densely layered songs still somehow seem light and airy.
Rituals isn't the product of a group going through the motions, either: The group just pared itself down from five members to three (both Josh Onstott and Jonathon Mooney remained and relocated with Tabish), but this is Other Lives' most adventurous set of songs to date. To bring that rich sound to life, the band packed the small KEXP live room with all kinds of instruments — horns, strings, keys, drums, timpani, vibraphone, you name it — for a sensational in-studio performance.
Every month, NPR Music asks public radio personalities around this country to name a new favorite song and then we feature one of those songs on Morning Edition.
Other Lives left their hometown of Stillwater, Oklahoma two years ago and relocated to Portland, Oregon to record the follow-up to 2011's Tamer Animals. In an exhaustive search for a new musical identity, the band wrote more than 60 prospective songs for their latest album, Rituals. If the lead single, "Reconfiguration," is any indication, the change of scenery did them some good. Like many of their previous efforts, "Reconfiguration" features rolling piano arrangements and lush production, but gone are the obvious folk influences and the echoey sonic imagery of wide open spaces. Moodier and smoother than its earthy predecessors, "Reconfiguration" showcases Jesse Tabish's sultry singing, which is more emotive than on past recordings. And this time around, the echo chamber is reserved for a haunting backing chorus that would give listeners the creeps if the overall arrangement weren't so damn sexy. —Jerad Walker, opbmusic