Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Miss Derringer - Winter Hill (Album Review)

Miss Derringer, a rock band heavily influenced by outlaw country and 60s girl pop, is fronted by singer and underground artist Liz McGrath and her husband Morgan Slade. Their third album Winter Hill releases next week on Triple X Records.

From start to finish, the album maintains a vintage garage sound, pouring random proportions of pop, punk, country and rock into each song. There are many tracks that stand out, but together they form a devastating album.

Winter Hill begins with an opening theme, “Click Click (Bang Bang)”, which sounds like it could open a big budget Western film as easily as a concert. The style changes a bit towards girl punk in the next track, “Bulletproof Heart”, a great rock song but not too memorable.

After those first two, come three smashing tracks in a row. The lead promotional track for the album, “Black Tears”, stands out with Liz's girl pop vocals over surf guitar and drums. Next up is “Don't Leave Me Now”, a mellower ballad that sways soulfully as Liz channels Diana Ross, with the band backing her.

The album as a whole is stunning, but the standout track is definitely “Death By Desire”. The reverberating guitar melody echoes Liz's vocals, sweeping across the muted rhythm guitar. The drums fill all the right spots, while the bass bolsters them all.

Without warning, the band makes a three-minute detour to straight up rockabilly in “All the Pretty Things”. The lyrics seem a raucous backlash to the romance of Robert Plant and Alison Krauss' “Please Read the Letter”.

The band proves that they can do more than ingeniously mash genres together in “Tell Me So” and “Heartbreaks & Razorblades”. When all the fillings of pop, country, punk and soul are scooped out, there is still a sweet rock & roll crust underneath. The drum-led “Drop Shot Dead” is fast and dance-inducing—the preceding few tracks often fade to the background of my daydreaming, but this one snaps me back into focus every time.

Winter Hill closes with “Mausoleum”, a dark song that brings the album to a dramatic climax. This is the only song on the album with an air of epic beauty.

The album holds a strong focus on the electric guitars and Liz's vocals, moulding them around more 60s music genres than anyone should ever be able to mix at once, but they do it skillfully. Miss Derringer describes it as “the soundtrack to a 1960's Irish Mob War”. After a few listens of the 30-minute album, pay attention to the drums. The band seemingly tries to torment him with their relentless genre-shifting, but he flawlessly takes it in step, finding the matching beat for every song.

Among all the hidden gems I've uncovered in the recent surge of faux vintage music, Miss Derringer is the only one that has pushed beyond one or two fun, earcatching songs and created a superb album that can be savored in its entirety.



Miss Derringer - Death By Desire
Download MP3 (zshare) (YSI)

Miss Derringer - Black Tears
Download MP3 (zshare) (YSI) or watch the video below

Digital: eMusic | Amazon MP3 US | Amazon MP3 UK | iTunes
CD: Interpunk | CD Universe | Amazon US
The official release date is July 14, but some of these shops are already selling it.

Miss Derringer is touring the west coast of North America with Girl in a Coma this month.


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