Freshly Squeezed: Low Volts with Oh My Stars

Hello everybody. I’ve finally found myself a bit of breathing room, as my next exam isn’t until Friday. This means I can finally get to some fresh new jams from So-Cal’s Low Volts.

The new album is “Oh My Stars”, the follow up to the 2011 debut, “Twist Shake Grind Break” which I talked about right here. This one-man band’s debut was a sticky-sweet combination of crunchy blues guitar and the steady boom a single kick-drum. It was a raw and simplistic sound that was just the right kind of dark and dingy.

“Oh My Stars” sees some new changes to this formula and showcases a stylistic shift from the darker blues tones of the first album to some much more apparent rockabilly influences. Perhaps one of the major changes that is immediately noticeable is the addition of extra percussion elements. While “TSGB” pretty much exclusively used a single kick-drum with additional rattle or clanks, “Oh My Stars” uses everything from analog drum machines to chains and jerry cans.

The programmed drums are the most noticeable addition, apparent right from the get-go with “Shake in the Knees”. For the most part these drums work well, providing a nice contrast to the guitar. However some other tracks like “Can’t Deny” seem at odds with the new percussion, creating a sound that just isn’t quite cohesive. This is only a very small portion of the tracks though, as the majority of the album showcases the peanut-butter and jam sound from the first album.

Stylistically the album has toned down some of the garage blues from “TSGB”, with songs that seem more linear, with a friendlier guitar tone and lighter atmosphere. The riffs and licks seem a bit simpler, with more energetic songs that would lend themselves quite nicely to a rockabilly setting. It wouldn’t be too much of  a stretch to hear these songs played with a stand-up bass or washboard in the background.

Basically what I’m trying to get at is that the new songs seem like they would reap the benefit of having a full band. Something like “Knocked Me Over” or “Crippled Cat” are two prime examples that would be killer with some extra instruments. There are still plenty of tracks that are dominated by that delicious slide guitar and could not be served up any other way, like “Bloody Knuckles and a Hickey” or “Our Joyous Doom” (My favorite track).

So at the end of the day I see this album as somewhat of transition between two sounds. On one hand there is the crunchy blues drawl perfected on the first album, on the other hand there’s some new, more energetic veins of rockabilly crawling out from the murky swamp. I personally prefer the sound from the first album but I would expect just as much or more love for the new tracks.

“Oh My Stars” was just released today and is currently available for download from CD Baby and Amazon. It will also be up on iTunes and Bandcamp later in the week (I’ll update this post with the Bandcamp player once it’s up). Give it a listen and see what you think!

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