While The Stripminers’ debut release, “Movies” (early 2012) proved the band’s penchant for an eclectic and varied mix of punk, alternative country, garage rock and Pixies-like flair, their second studio album, “Frail Hope Ranch”, takes on a more cohesive musical theme. Unlike “Movies”, the album is comprised almost entirely of moody alt-country ballads conveying the visual of the name behind the title track.
(Interestingly enough, all of the material from the debut and this new release was recorded at around the same time, but the band saved these more atmospheric, melancholy tracks on “Frail Hope Ranch” to be packaged together in this standout release).
The Stripminers are Brett Anderson, vocalist for rock dynamos The Donnas, and Paul Stinson from punkers The Radishes. L.A. producer/guitarist Scrote, in turn, brings in a veteran lineup of LA heavyweights, including Brett Simons on bass, DJ Bonebrake (of X fame) on drums, Chris Bruce and Eric Schermerhorn on guitar, and Holland Greco (multi-instrumentalist, singer).
The album kicks off with “Gothic”, which begins with a somewhat sad, spooky instrumental of guitar and violins, painting a picture of fear, pathos and confusion. The track has a cinematic flair that continues throughout the album. The cleverly titled corresponding tracks, “Y’all Part 1” and “Y’all Part 2” sound like they could have been lifted from David Lynch’s “Twin Peaks” soundtrack. With their slow-motion fuzzy guitars, lethargic, deep bass picking and atmospheric cymbal rolls, the lyrics are equally dark, with matching male/female heartbreaking refrains, “I’m still hiding away with you” and “I’m still pining away over you”, sung by Stinson on #1 and Anderson on #2. The songs are just the bookends Lynch might use to begin and end his next noir masterpiece. Standout album track, “The Twins” demonstrates the album’s lyrical poetry, depth and complexity while “The Captive” features Stinson singing melodic vocals (in contrast to his more common punk delivery), on a bluesy ballad, proving he’s got the chops for a sad blues dirge as much as a punchy punk popper. And, when Anderson joins in the sadness mid-song, the duo’s combined delivery is as good as any Lee Hazelwood/Nancy Sinatra tragi-drama. The album finale, a rockin’ cover of The Zombies’ “She’s Not There”, is perhaps the most impressive cover of the song to date, incorporating vibes, tight harmonies, and (eventually) the anger that the lyrics convey.
While the band hinted at this direction on their debut with standout tracks “Better Than A Song’ and the sultry Anderson-sung “Like a Harp”, “Frail Hope Ranch” takes the band further toward their alt-country leanings and is sure to drive an entire new fan base to the band’s unique sound.
RIYD: Donnas, Radishes, X, Pixies, Gram Rabbit, Iggy Pop, White Stripes, Kills