Some of them have been holding on to their records since before Christmas, crouching in the dark, clutching their precious music with sweaty hands, waiting to pounce on unsuspecting yokels who have just paid off their holiday-shopping debts and have a little spare coinage. Based on the new crop, I’d say the music-loving yokel should welcome the assault. Tops among 2008’s nuggets are two exceedingly melancholy and ineffably beautiful albums, Collin Herring’s Past Life Crashing and Titanmoon’s Film Black. But the rest aren’t bad at all: Goodwin’s Goodwin 2, the Josh Weathers Band’s The New Serenade, PlayRadioPlay’s major-label debut, Texas (Island Records), and several others from less popular or less appreciated artists, including James Michael Taylor’s Here Comes Lonely, Kurt South’s September Sessions EP, and the One O’Clock Lab Band’s 2007 compilation.
Granted, most local bands do not support their caviar habits through record sales alone. Touring also is kind of important, which is why, with spring’s soothing breezes right around the corner, new records also serve as buzz-building devices. The immediate tour itinerary for Titanmoon will not include: dive bars, pool halls, coffee shops, or any other kind of establishment where proper attire is optional, including, for the most part, rock joints. Instead, the local quartet will play only upscale nightclubs, which is apropos to the band’s new, elegant direction. A sense of epic, hyper-synthesized grandeur still infuses Titanmoon’s mod-rock. But co-songwriters Nathan Schneidewent and Tyler Casey have spiced up their Killers-ish tendencies with ethnic flavors. The move lends a sort of international feel to Film Black, an album conceived mainly as an homage to Casablanca and writ in the universal language of globalized rock ‘n’ roll. The disc includes mariachi music, plinking, plunking, and sometimes booming around the edges of tracks, plus horns, lots of tabla, a small choir, and guest appearances by vocalists Elghali “E.G.” Idrissi Kaitouni, who is credited, in high Hollywood style, as the “Moroccan street singer,” and Stephanie Kelly, the “German soprano.”