Monday, December 6, 2010

Gospel Music Duettes As Owen Holmes Hears It

Owen HolmesOwen Holmes is best known as the bassist for the American indie pop band Black Kids. Hailing from Jacksonville, Florida, Black Kids broke out a few years ago with some overtly indie twee-pop party tunes that won over Vice magazine, Pitchfork magazine, and CMJ (but not us).

There is more to hear from Holmes than the fizzy stylings of his band mates. After coming back from the Big Day Out festivals in New Zealand and Australia, Holmes seems to have had some extra time on his hands.

So he dusted off some duets and used them, along with some delirium caused by "two-hour, many-mile runs around Jacksonville" to produce a collection strong enough for an EP. According to Holmes, the songs were written in his apartment while brewing beer in the kitchen and then he recorded the album at home.

"When I say 'recorded,' I mean that I stuck a microphone in front of whatever I was playing," wrote Holmes on a guest post for the Kill Rock Stars label. "I played everything except for the drum set."

Duettes is vibrant collection of roughly produced alternative wanderings with anybodys but not nobodys.

To give you an idea just how accidentally the album came together, Holmes says he didn't even know the singers who accompanied him, with the exception of SoKo. He searched the net and then emailed people to see if they would sing with him.

He came up with SoKo (as mentioned), Shirley Simms (The Magnetic Fields), Tracyanne Campbell (Camera Obscura), Darren Haymen (who recently produced Essex Arms), and Cassie Ramone (Vivian Girls). The effort is titled with the semi-fictitious and impossible-to-find-via-search band moniker Gospel Music.

The effort pays out in dividends. A few years back, these would have been the kind of indie duets that fans would hunt for inside obscure record shops and bootleg sections. Nowadays, digital distribution makes them more accessible. However, as it stands right now, it's hard to tell how many people know they exist.

The five songs are pretty much spelled out by Holmes in his write up. They are all straightforward cuts, random social situations woven together with things he likes, like his car, beer, and boiled peanuts. Somehow, it works.

The best of the bunch is I Miss The Shit Out Of You with SoKo. Automobile with Tracyanne Campbell was the first to see some lift thanks to a campy and underplayed YouTube video directed by Alan Del Rio Ortiz. It was shot as part of a 13-hour road trip. Ortiz has an old school vintage vision. Although he only had three vids under he belt, he's clearly a director to watch.

It's hard to say that Holmes is the best singer ever (he's likable in a Kimya Dawson kind of way), but no one can deny that he is an extraordinary composer, capable of writing some one-off music and bringing the right people together to make it happen. All five of the tracks are worth owning.

The U.K.'s Fierce Panda originally released the album as homespun, homegrown, homemade indie music. They described it as "hobo-jumping leftfield nuggets" with alternative music guest stars." And you know, they are kind of right too. Kill Rock Stars gets props for the U.S. drop.

Gospel Music's Duettes Climbs To 8.5 On The Liquid Hip Richter Scale.

All in all, Gospel Music is the kind of stuff we look for every day. Some days we find it. Today was one of those days. Even Charles Newman (Stephin Merritt's man) deserves a hat tip. He mixed the album.

You can find Duettes by Gospel Music on iTunes. You can also find it under duettes - EP on Amazon.
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