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Monday, 17 May 2010

Album Review: The Powder Kegs - Empty Side EP

The Powder Kegs began in 2005 as an old time busking bluegrass band from New York City and New Jersey, however on winning a 700-entry radio talent competition entitled "People In Their Twenties Talent Show" from A Prairie Home Companion Radio in Vassar, NY, their subsequent burst of fame and hype enabled them to sell 1,400 copies of their debut CD that following year. Now four years on, the Empty Side EP brings a new sound which represents the other side of the coin in terms of the fusion of indie pop and folk which their hype-ridden 2008 full-length exhibited. The latest instalment, the Empty Side EP, arrived unannounced in my inbox last week and proves a stark difference from the twangy bluegrass roots which launched the band all those years ago.

Now having relocated to Philadelphia, the trio's modified sound has brought their music to more mainstream attention. Single "La Mariposa" did brilliantly on the Hype Machine recently, crossing languages and genres to create a half-Spanish, half-American beach jam song, with influence displayed from artists as far ranging as Paul Simon and Jason Mraz. Although they play music nothing like so sickeningly cheesy as the latter, their music could certainly appeal to the same audience if it was ever to reach their ears.

"Window on Your Wall" opens the EP wearing its Vampire Weekend influences on its sleeve; even the vocals aren't far off those of Ezra Koenig's multi-million dollar afro-pop outfit - and this theme continues to some extent in to the rest of the tracks. "Don't Cry, Little Baby Bird (Its All Right)" however is quite clearly Beatles influenced, and the very same track displays some piano and vocal lines which wouldn't be out of place in a Wilco song. Aforementioned "La Mariposa" is followed with "Shake Me Down", a narrative vocal based track with chill-out bass and keys to accompany. The EP is rounded off with perhaps its most upbeat track "The Right Time", and this strummed finale is where the clean 60s production really comes into its own. Organ sounds push acoustic guitar into the background in this builder, and pretty quickly a track which begins  with organic sounds turns into a swinging folk pop song.

The Powder Kegs expertly combine organic folk sounds with influences far ranging as they are old, to create a concise 5-track showcase of their recently reformed genre preferences. Once more, the album is available through band camp at name your price. All you have to do is follow this link and you are free to pay as much or as little as you wish for the Empty Side EP.  If one track however is all you're after - La Mariposa is the one to grab from below.

The Powder Kegs - La Mariposa (MP3) (available at The Powder Kegs' Bandcamp)

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