Review: Coke Weed, “Mary Weaver” (Bar Harbor/Boston, indie rock)

Even though some of the members of the band have since moved to Boston, Coke Weed is still a Bar Harbor band. That’s where they started, and that’s where three-fifths of the band still lives. That’s where the band developed its identity — soaring psychedelic walls of sound, mixed with dueling guitars a la Verlaine and Lloyd of Television, thumping classic rock rhythms, and a lead singer channeling the icy cool of Nico or Francoise Hardy.

Coke Weed playing at the All Roads Music Festival in Belfast in May 2015. Photo by Tim Sullivan.

Coke Weed playing at the All Roads Music Festival in Belfast in May 2015. Photo by Tim Sullivan.

After two albums exploring that sound, however, Coke Weed has moved in a slightly different direction with its third album, “Mary Weaver,” which came out last month on indie label Beyond Beyond Is Beyond. It’s less ragged, trippy and overtly psychedelic; this is a shinier, happier, more poptimistic Coke Weed. Lead singer Nina Donghia has never sounded better, with her coolly delivered, Cat Power-esque vocals front and center. In the past, her voice has played foil to McAlevey’s guitar; on “Mary Weaver” it’s a much more even pairing; you can hear every word she coos, snarls and deadpans on every song, like on the funky “Dead Man Walking,” the lead single from the album. Even when she sings a duet with McAlevey (“Street Secrets”) it’s Donghia’s voice that steals the spotlight. It’s her charismatic presence that gives Coke Weed much of its arty charm — there’s vocal hooks here, big ones, that are sung with such laid-back swagger that their catchiness gets under your skin, rather than hits you ever the head with it.

At times “Mary Weaver” feels almost like a pop album — “I Could Be So Real” has that kind of loosey-goosey, accessible weirdness that certain Beck songs have. By the second half of the album, however, the heaviness returns, as on the thumping “All the Shades” or the snarling, fuzzy, glam rock anthem “New Jive.” “Mary Weaver” never quite reaches the psychedelic heights that either the uber-cool “Back to Soft” or the massive “Nice Dreams” did, but that’s not a bad thing. It’s nice to see a band grow and change with the years.

Coke Weed will play this Thursday, Nov. 5 at the Buoy Gallery in Kittery with Bunny Boy, CJ Boyd and House of 1000 Sports Cars, and on Saturday, Nov. 14 at Bayside Bowl in Portland with Footings and Mail the Horse.

Emily Burnham

About Emily Burnham

Emily Burnham is a Maine native, UMaine graduate, proud Bangorian and a writer and editor for Bangor Metro Magazine, the Weekly and the Bangor Daily News, where she's worked since 2004. She reports on everything from local bands to local food to all the cool things going on in the Greater Bangor area. In her quest for stories, she's seen countless concerts and plays, been lobster fishing, interviewed celebrities, hung out with water buffalo and played in a ukulele orchestra. She's interested in everything that happens in Maine. Albums for review are accepted digitally only; please no CDs.