There's something satisfying about watching musicians grow, watching them find the thing they've looked for and own it.
Musicians that push themselves tend to do it publicly. The players tend to meddle in too-busy ideas or successful touring bands, as reigned-in sidemen or inspired leaders with not-quite-there primetime players, or tangle themselves in loose strings of too many bands and too many commitments. With Vox & The Hound, its players have found in each other that "thing."
A part of that is in growing up. Leo DeJesus, Daniel Ray, Andrew Jarman, Eric Rogers and Rory Callais all have worked tremendously over what's likely a combined million years (despite being twenty-somethings) on ambitious, high concept projects, and for most of the time, succeeded, albeit with some brave failures.
Their veterans charts count dozens of bands among them, from short-lived punk bands or bands aping over-hyped New Wave and indie pop. With Vox & The Hound, which debuted in 2010, the band shares a work ethic and a seemingly effortless dynamic unlike anything they've put before it.
Its 2011 EP, Hermosa, previewed a band intent not on miming "new" (unlike flavor of the month buzz bands, whether Afro-pop or lo-fi or over-thought indie pop). Instead it found a voice, or at least a clear direction headed straight into "what the hell do we do with 'it' now."
The answer came in July, when the band held an open house at Algiers studio The Living Room, dolled up in candle-lit southwestern motifs. The aesthetic was clear. The band's stage space, a mix of keys, guitars, brass and assorted percussion, was carefully mic'ed, a glimpse of the recording process for their debut full-length album Courage, which the band performed in its entirety that night.
Tonight, after playful album teasers and track leaks, the band releases Courage at the House of Blues.
The album, available on vinyl and CD, was recorded mostly to tape — it has a rich warmth with crystal clear cleans and thick and dirty punches. Album opener "Madeleine Kahn" rolls in with Sergio Leone-approved dusty twang before a chorus of "whoa-oh-ohs" and crashing guitars, building to handclaps, hollers and frenzied strings. The bubbling, melodica-driven "Slingshot" follows, with Jarman's measured, deliberate bass.
The band embraced a "Western" influence (more spaghetti than country), with Callais dropping single-note riffs into movie-sized timpani. The classically trained ears have a knack for crafting perfect pop moments and precise harmonies. "Red Clay" empties to a Mexican stand-off, complete with Ennio Morricone whistles, and explodes into its mammoth chorus — desert campfire sing-along "Fake It" follows.
Closing track "Sweet Solanum" unleashes frontman DeJesus as a smokey, defeated jazzman, unzipped from his chest-beating cowboy costume worn throughout Courage. It's here the "concept" comes to life — we live in their tales of lost, new and forgotten love, then arrive at the funeral. "Everyone deserves a second chance," DeJesus repeats, before a Western brass dirge.
Watch the album trailer below:
The band performs at 9 p.m. at House of Blues with Sports & Leisure. Tickets are $10.
Read more about Vox & The Hound in our 2012 Music Issue.