Both of these culty indie-psyche-pop outfits have substantial ties to the Tampa Bay music scene. Home was founded here, playing and home-recording releases for years before decamping for New York City, and Leels members Chris Sturgeon and Jenny Juristo did time in several local outfits long before their current outfit settled into its collaborative, members-all-over-the-country format. Both also had a hand in creating Screw Music Forever, a band/artist collective that still boasts Tampa members like Dumbwaiters. And if any more connective tissue were needed, Home co-founder Eric Morrison — Jenny Juristo Morrison's husband —also contributes to Leels these days.
Sexteen, a concept record about fucking, is Home's 16th release; Fingeescrossed is Leels' third. While the two records arguably work a vein somewhere near those mined by arty upstarts The Flaming Lips, fuzzed-out pop-rock outfit Built to Spill and the psychedelic-pop progenitors of the Elephant6 collective (Olivia Tremor Control, Neutral Milk Hotel), each evinces a distinct personality that renders easy associations impossible.
Home's lo-fi upbringing is apparent in the variety of mixes and styles on the more rocking Sexteen — there's a deceptively loose, natural camaraderie to the tracks, which range from Beatles-esque, to proggy, to the mock-funk and recorded phone-sex call of "Bubble," to "Push," which could've been one of the James Gang's best tunes.
By comparison, Leels' latest effort is lighter, more ethereal and spacious. There's less bombast, but there's also more ambitious instrumentation and bold experimentation; when the big dynamics do come, as they do early on in "Fight," they retain the slightly dreamy quality that permeates Fingeescrossed.
Both discs occasionally dip below the standards each sets for itself, but not often. They're both also much more accessible than these groups' reputations and previous output might suggest, and each is an interesting and engaging look into a group of artists unafraid to mess with pop and indie-rock conventions, but mindful of their most attractive elements. (www.brahrecords.com, www.clothmonkeyrecords.com) Sexteen 3.5 stars Fingeescrossed 3 stars Scott Harrell
Home plays the New World Brewery stage at WMNF's Tropical Heatwave on Sat., May 20.
Broken Boy Soldiers
Even though The White Stripes have been quite lucrative for Jack White, we had to know he'd get tired of playing only with an ex-wife drummer who can't keep time. Maybe it was a burning desire to hear bass lines behind him, or to collaborate with some musicians near his level, but White is part of a new four-piece, the Raconteurs. He picked a good singing/songwriting partner in Brendan Benson, a formidable solo artist in the power-pop mold who's never gotten the break he deserves (until now). Broken Boy Soldiers works an enticing and ear-friendly amalgam of harmony-rich pop-rock, classic rock riffage and hints of blues and even art-rock. White and Benson join for sweet-and-sour harmonies that call to mind the Beatles' "Rain." Most of these hooky tunes are built around a serious guitar crunch and some well-placed analog keyboards, not to mention a bedrock rhythm section of bassist Jack Lawrence and drummer Patrick Keeler. Raconteurs does not smack of a Jack White vanity project; it's a true collaboration, one of the better rock records I've heard in awhile. 4 stars Eric Snider
The Wind at Four to Fly
THE DISCO BISCUITS
The latest release by Philadelphia's beloved trance-fusion jammers includes cuts from some of the Disco Biscuits' final shows before drummer Sam Altman bid the band a fond farewell. The two-disc set is chock full of Bisco's characteristic heavy rocking electro-jams. Some are aimless and almost lackluster, as in disc one's "Caterpillar," while the rambling psychedelia of "Morph Dusseldorf" builds to an ultimately satisfying, note-heavy crescendo. The Biscuits get self-indulgent on disc two with 17-minute versions of "Story of the World," a bouncy, funk-pop piece, and Latin-flavored "Little Shimmy in a Conga Line," while the ambient, bass-heavy intro to "Basis for a Day" and its subsequent 29-minute electronic foray is probably a tad long for anyone save die-hard fans. Overall, The Wind at Four to Fly is simply a musical snapshot, a record of the band's fleeting final moments with an important (and now former) founding member. (www.discobiscuits.com) 3 stars Leilani Polk