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Huldra, South Paw, Wild Apples

Local CD Reviews: Black Tides, Tell Me Which Way to Run, The Wolves Must Run Free

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Huldra, Black Tides
The concept of the fourth album by post-metal band Huldra is seemingly simple: a futile battle between a lone unnamed man and the perilous sea. But listeners will feel like they're right there in the rickety boat with him as Huldra chronicles the protagonist's fears, what his body is experiencing amid the freezing waves, and his grief from leaving behind his family. The beginning of the opening track, "The Eye of the Storm," is quiet but full of unbearable tension—as if the sailor is gazing upon the wall of the storm approaching—but it lasts only for a moment, before the stillness is steamrollered by a barrage of guitar, bass, pounding drums and throat-tearing roaring that's as ruthless as the ocean itself. Do yourself a favor and read the lyrics: Lines like "Let the air out you won't need to breathe here" ("From Out of the Maelstrom") chill and pierce the heart like icy daggers. There are several ethereal, even delicate moments on the album—the vocalists and violinists of SubRosa lend their abilities to a few tracks—but overall, Black Tides hits the ears like only an unfeeling, unrelenting force of nature can. Self-released, Oct. 11, HuldraTheBand.bandcamp.com

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South Paw, Tell Me Which Way to Run
With its abundant pedal steel and mournful lyrics about loneliness and wandering, the first half of South Paw's debut sounds like a night spent staring into a beer in a smoky honky-tonk bar. Introductory track "Sip" has all the elements of a satisfyingly sad country song: strings that tremble against warm pedal steel, just the right amount of grit and twang in frontman/songwriter Paul Clonts' voice, and the too-true line "In this place of love, I manage to feel alone." That country feel continues on "Slow Traveler," which makes excellent use of harmonica, and the acoustic-guitar-rich "Old Wind," detailing the feeling of meeting one's true love for the first time. But on the fourth track, "Dentuso," the country bent takes a backseat to atmospheric, chilly indie-rock through heavier strings and a change in Clonts' voice from mellow to emotion-filled belting. There's even some psych-tinged stuff on "Sahar," which features epic electric guitar. Haunting final track "Darkened Son" completes the album's surprising journey, showing that while South Paw might have a country exterior, they have plenty of other tricks up their sleeve. Self-released, Aug. 30, SouthPaw5.bandcamp.com

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Wild Apples, The Wolves Must Run Free
On their debut album, The Wolves Must Run Free, Provo art-rock seven-piece Wild Apples daringly toy with unconventional combinations of musical genres and have a blast while doing it. However, that exuberance gets Wild Apples only so far, despite the band's respectable ambition. It was a lofty goal to wrestle the styles of jazz, indie-rock, punk, baroque pop and folk into a cohesive product, but the end result sounds all over the place. For example, the delicate indie-pop vocal harmonies and strings in the first portion of "Mother's Words" are soon unfortunately buried in horns and tacked-on punk-style growls. It's the more focused songs that work better, such as folk-rock track "Pieces of the Sky," which is full of bouncy energy, as well as mandolin that complements the bright vocals. But even though the music's individual elements—such as the discrete instrument parts and melodies—aren't allowed to shine on their own, they're done well, suggesting that Wild Apples have a lot of skills that just need direction. Self-released, Aug. 7, WildApples.bandcamp.com

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