Night Music: Joanna Gruesome, “Secret Surprise”

I listened to this band because they derived their name from the fantastically weird and talented and interesting harpist Joanna Newsom. I’m sure that’s what they wanted, but it’s hard to see what the connection is. Newsom, from the Bay Area (her uncle used to be mayor of San Francisco) is an alt-harpist, a master of long form storytelling suffused with lyrical whimsy, surreal autobiography and pinpoint musical control. Gruesome, from Wales, features pounding hyperactive drums, many layers of guitars, other sounds and reverb, and oddly reticent (undermixed) yet attractively authoritative vocals (with impossible to discern lyrics).

At low volume, like if you’re working, it sounds a mess, but crank it up and you’ll wish you were in the club hearing them do this live. And the whole album is this way (check out their cover of Galaxie 500’s Tugboat).

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