Last Thursday night, we were honored to announce Or, the Whale as winner of the Best Alt-Country/Folk/Singer- Songwriter category at the 2007 SF Weekly Music Awards. The award is but the latest in a seemingly endless string of kudos for this San Francisco band whose debut album Light Posts and Pines, self-released earlier this year, led Delusions of Adequacy to proclaim them “representatives of the true revival of modern Americana.”
That’s a pretty heavy burden to bear, but it doesn’t seem unreasonable for a band whose sound appeals to a wide variety of music fans. Looking around their recent shows, including a packed headlining performance at the Great American Music Hall a few weeks back, it can be surprising how many indie rockers, myself included, have been drawn to Or, the Whale’s country-influenced, banjo- and slide guitar-blessed sound.
If there’s an explanation, it’s likely the obvious one, that the songs are just that good. Soaring vocal harmonies convey stories of good times and heartbreak over textured melodic instrumentals that reference a number of familiar and comforting musical elements from folk, rock, and Americana, fused together into a uniquely sublime blend that feels less anachronistic than timeless. The band plays its country-rock without any sense of affect or self-awareness and that sincerity definitely comes through in the music.
As you might suspect of a band with six talented performers (seven when they’re joined by pedal steel player Tim Marcus), Or, the Whale’s live show is simply captivating, evoking the album’s emotional highs and lows with precision and energy. The up-tempo numbers especially take on a new life live; hook-packed stomper “Call and Response,” featured above (and included on our compilation CD The Bay Bridged, Volume 1) kicks off the album, but live the song usually serves as the closer, exhausting whatever little dancing energy the audience still possessed in its wake.
By all accounts, the band’s first cross-country tour this summer, which found them on the road for a month, was a resounding success, as they’re embarking on a West Coast trip following Thursday’s San Francisco show. Check them out if you can and see if you aren’t hooked by the end of one song.
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about new music in cities.