The Stacker Three (thestackerthree.bandcamp.com) is an instrumental rock trio with the unique aim of musically portraying various 20th century cults with tragic and disturbing demises, each on a separate release with a different style and approach. Its debut album, Healter Skelter (sic), was about the Manson Family, and its new, second release, The Seven Seals, a 10-inch EP on clear orange vinyl, concerns David Koresh and his Branch Davidian sect in Waco, TX. It’s a complicated excursion, featuring fluid guitar lines from Russ Cannon (of Indian Friend and The Sha-Pels), with spacey guitar effect treatments and wah-wah inflections, and the brick house rhythm section of bassist Arettie Ford (also of The Sha-Pels) and drummer Britton Ware (of Thee Something Brothers and Mister Grits). The EP darts between sludgy, menacing moments to more delicate, tiptoeing scenes back to overdriven distortion, with on-off-on dynamic roller coasters. “The Mighty Men” features some unexpectedly bright melodies and a motorik-beat driven with a steamroller-like momentum, and the EP ends with apocalyptic fuzz and fire, mirroring the terrible end of the Waco siege.
Troubadour Alex Thompson has released his home recordings under the name The Alexanders (alexanders.bandcamp.com), and his latest is a 14-song collection on CD entitled Western Medicine, capturing Thompson’s delicate charm, lithe and supple delivery, and wide-eyed folky pop. His arrangements are appropriately light and nimble, with an acoustic guitar backbone and a variety of flourishes: whistling, trumpet toots, an off-kilter detuned piano, frugal drumming, or lushly layered cello lines. Thompson has marked out a distinctive singing style that floats with a silky smoothness and adeptly controlled modulations, possibly like a cross between Morrissey, Kevin Barnes, and a crooner from the ‘20s. A few tracks use a boost of feminine cuteness with additional vocals from three guest singers, including the odd “Kitty-Cat Sailboat Waltz” that’s both sweet and murderous and “’You’re Not Going to Wait for Me!’ Says the Pessimist” with the call-and-response exchange of a children’s song. It’s a frolicking album marked with Thompson’s unique voice and his willingness to be playful.
The new 7-inch vinyl EP from Anna Banana (a.k.a. Anna King), on her Tame Dat Poodle Records label, squeezes four songs onto its two sides, marked “Fall Down” and “Stand Up”; despite the ostensible thematic divide, the tracks seem to all fit in the former “Fall Down” camp, with earnest renderings of songs of emotional descent, longing, and emptiness. With just her voice and an acoustic guitar, the arrangements are simple affairs, conveying complicated situations by using varying tempos and ardent strumming and picking. A punk-rock indignation is injected into the EP, thanks to a sailor’s mouth and a beer-drinking, weed-smoking attitude, but several vulnerabilities are present as well, like on the track “Waste,” which starts with the wrenching line, “Please don’t feel like I was a waste of time.”
Iron Diplomat (irondiplomat.com) is a metal-rock quartet with sharp edges, bringing to mind the aggressiveness of metal road-pavers Black Sabbath or Metallica from a sonic perspective, enhanced with the requisite guitar squealing and bursts of shredding. On top of this, it seems like the outfit is attempting to distinguish itself by defining its presence in a memorable way; the cover of its new, self-titled full-length album, available on CD, features the band’s logo of a hand holding a hammer, bringing to mind cold war iconography. There’s a political consciousness in the group’s lyrics, like “I smell revolution in the air / Burn it down, scatter the ashes,” and it goes further to tackle subjects such as consumerism, materialism, and environmentalism. “Honor” begins with militaristic march drumming to match its war-torn subject, mentioning “ghosts with angry questions,” and the album takes an unexpected power ballad turn with “You Were There.” Listeners may find the themes to be heavy-handed, like a blow from a blunt object, but that’s likely fully intended by Iron Diplomat—just take a glance at the album cover.