Now It’s Overhead

It’s no secret that Saddle Creek bands (well, mainly Bright Eyes’ Conor Oberst) are fans of R.E.M. But only that label’s Now It’s Overhead — which opened part of Stipe et al’s 2004 U.S. tour — successfully captures the enigmatic brooding and mystical Southern-gothic longing of R.E.M.’s best albums. On the upcoming Dark Light Daybreak, Overhead singer and songwriter Andy LeMaster croons with a faint wrinkled twang that’s very Stipean, while the accompanying music — including spiraling lullabies, stormy rock and synth-speckled lurches — include his best compositions yet. (Added bonus: The fabulous, multilayered “Estranged” is a lost shoegazer anthem.) In contrast, Omaha’s Tilly and the Wall in concert sound like R.E.M.’s “Shiny Happy People” playing on a continuous loop, all rainbows and harmonic sunshine courtesy of twinkle-toed tap-dancer Jamie Williams and cheerful, dueling female vocalists. But the group’s second album, Bottoms of Barrels, lets cracks of lyrical darkness peek through their otherwise Salvador Dali-surreal, optimistic wordplay. This cloud cover is brief, though; bullfighting horns, handclaps and other Technicolor indie-rock tricks emerge to create a Romper Room-worthy uplift.

Categories: Music