The single most prominent aspect of the Ghost of Paul Revere’s debut full-length “Believe” is their vocal harmonies. It’s the thing that sets them apart from all the other Americana bands scattered across the pop and indie landscape these days: GOPR has three lead singers, not one singer with other bandmates that harmonize with him. This diversity of voices puts them much more in league with The Band, rather than Mumford & Sons, and for that, we listeners are most lucky, as it makes “Believe” an unusually mature, engrossing listen, as well-played as it is, often, quite simple and stripped down. There are no drums to speak of; just guitar, banjo, bass and mandolin, and big slabs of multi-instrumentalist Matt Young’s harmonica splashed around. There are few barn-burners, aside from the sexy “Hey Girl” and the troubled mind epic “The Storm,” and even the Led Zeppelin-esque “Fire In The Sky.” In fact, most of the album is surprisingly meditative, with the band choosing to focus on exploring those beautiful harmonies and how they interlock and blend with the instrumentation, instead of trying to make pop anthems. Jonathan Wyman’s production is crisp and even-handed; everything’s right up front, so there’s nowhere for a mis-step or lesser turn of phrase or chord to hide. GOPR aren’t afraid to put it all out there, and what they’re giving us is among the strongest work to come out of Maine in years. Watch out for these guys.
Rustic Overtones’ eighth studio LP, “Let’s Start A Cult 2,” starts off with the hypnotically sexy “The Show Must Go On,” which has all the things you love about Rustic: spritely, conversational horn arrangements, the tortured yet lovable shaggy dog vocals of Dave Gutter (complimented by the angelic pipes of Sara Hallie Richardson), and a minor key verse segueing into a delectably pop-centric major-key chorus. It picks up where the first installment of the two-part “Cult” series left off: unabashedly embracing their inherent pop sensibilities, but still dancing that same intricate five-step between ska, jazz, hip hop, r&b and Latin rhythms. Dig that rock n’ roll boogie on “Bonfire (Sundefeatable),” or that effortlessly light, quasi-African rhythm on “Martyrs,” or those pleasantly Peter Gabriel-esque synths on “Us vs. Other People.” Rustic could have been content to just be a big band making danceable party anthems for the rest of whatever. Clearly, though, they are not: nobody as rhythmically restless as Rustic could do that. There are few other bands that could put out a song that simultaneously channels Steely Dan and Van Morrison (“Beside Manor”) and make it sound as natural as breathing. It’s been said a thousand times before, but I’ll say it again: it’s a crime that Rustic Overtones isn’t a household name. Each new album just reinforces that.
Here’s my early vote for biggest surprise so far this year: “Multiversal,” the album released quietly by Waterville-based hip hop collective Indigenous Immigrants on Christmas Day last year. I literally knew nothing about this group except that I think I saw their name on a hip hop show in Portland somewhere, and just happened to stumble across the album — a full 13 tracks, produced by the group itself — on Bandcamp last month. They exist in the same kind of water as other hip hop groups that flirt with rock and alternative sounds. There’s some of that stoner wizard vibe like Cypress Hill, the social consciousness of Talib Kweli, and the humor and anger of Eminem. MCs and musicians Acrylic (Ryan Kohler), Vortext (Matthew Poulin), Perspective (John Carpenter), and Words of Phrase (Ben Church) rap about a lot of things — economic inequality, living in rural Maine, partying, men and women, life in general. There’s a lot of piano and acoustic guitar intermixed, a handful of vocal contributions both rapped and sung, with some fairly straightforward rhythms. It’s pretty easy to listen to, and the lyrics are really the showcase here. Clearly, these are four men with a lot of things to say. That they’ve flown under my radar for the past two years just makes it that much more enjoyable.