Burr Oak, Discus
Camp Howard is an indie-rock quartet based in Richmond, VA fronted by songwriters Nic Perea and Wes Parker, and backed by Matt Benson and Brian Larson. The band composes songs in both English and Spanish (courtesy of Perea – who is Mexican). The group released “Juice EP” in May 2017 through Egghunt Records. In May 2018, the band’s efforts were rewarded with a support tour opening for Stone Temple Pilots. Camp Howard has continued to tour and grow with an emphasis on tight musicianship and honest self-expression. The band is currently preparing to self-release a new full-length record in the fall of 2019.
Burr Oak is the new project of Chicago based singer-songwriter Savanna Dickhut who merges together brutally honest, story-driven lyrics with raw, dreamy vocals. Breaking away from her duo-fronted band Elk Walking, Burr Oak is Dickhut’s first-ever venture as a solo artist. With just two singles out this year, the Chicago Tribune wrote her songs “show the promise of a songwriter sure of her voice and sound, one that is piercing and deeply relatable and authentic.” Put it simply, Burr Oak’s voice resonates by bridging voice with story.
As Chicago’s four-piece rock group Discus share their 2019 debut full-length, Something Has Happened, it is unsurprisingly furnished with a variety of garage-pop staples, acknowledging the group’s shared memberships in longstanding Chicago groups Varsity, Pool Holograph, and Clearance.
As an intentional change of scenery, the album bears many of the “process” elements involved in crafting it, looking inward at the band’s vast anthropology of influences – as well as yielding some of the album’s best material. “(hunting)” was conceived during a New Years trip to the surreal, sandy terrain of Hunting Island, SC and the album’s introduction, “(wind & gold)” (whose namesake is a nod to Jonas Mekas) is one of several bedroom departures featuring reverse cassettes and Casio loops from a foggy suburban ether.
The Stolz brothers exhibit a plastique routine between guitar arrangements they’ve formed over the many years spent playing together since their early teens in Oak Park. These days, the two write, perform, practice, and record constantly between three bands, yet they’ve managed to harvest and retain a style that exudes tenderness, nostalgia, and hypnotic cantor. Combined with the infectious, buoyant rhythm section led by Kevin Fairbairn (bass) and Arthur Velez (drums), the songs are granted with distinct mobility and pop-forward charm.
Jake Stolz’s narratives are encrypted with his distinct humor, at times coming across as surreal, backwards, or absurd, in a way to both dissipate his authority and allow the listener to assemble a readymade meaning. It’s a familiar scenario for Jake, echoing his day job as a lab technician. The pieces are in place, but the chemistry is (sometimes intentionally) undetermined. This is especially the case in “Marco”, a voyeuristic fable for Jake’s real-life irritable plumber, and “Piss Boy”, a rambunctious, gushing elegy for the Stolz family dog Boudreaux.
As a whole, Something Has Happened is a bewildering but funny, sentimental but cryptic, portrait formed via collaged features. A folded note that leads the listener from the melancholy haze so common to the Midwest, towards the fleeting, orange afternoons we could not forget.