Music | Local CD Revue: Michael Gross & VCR5 

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Michael Gross
Tales From a Country Home
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As a former member of the Brobecks and current member of similarly poppy Let’s Become Actors, it’s easy to believe that Michael Gross knows a scientific formula for catchy pop melodies—but you don’t have to be a scientician for all the songs from Tales from a Country Home to burrow themselves deep into your brain. Album opener “The End” establishes a somber mood by throwing quiet bass over an earnest drum beat, building throughout to become a dreamy pop explosion with hints of alt-country. Songs like “Something Out of Nothing” could easily have become sappy Guitar-Guy-at-college-party fare, but Gross throws in enough piano and whammy-bar solos to keep us starry-eyed with admiration. Although it’d be tempting to blow his load in sheer pop indulgence, Tales shows some uncanny restraint in the album’s highlight, “Novacain,” which feels like Gross pulled a rock anthem through a pasta strainer, stripping it of all cheesiness and catharsis. The final track “I’ve Got a Feeling,” showcases his songwriting at its finest/most vulnerable; a simple lo-fi guitar suddenly becomes tentative over an ominous string section. It’s the perfect emotional anchor to an otherwise-whimsical album.

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VCR5 The Best of Fusoya
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VCR5 (or VCR Quintet, named for the multi-VCR/drum machine console that Joey Greathouse uses to create music) once risked being dismissed as a novelty act. Even though seeing Greathouse perform live is always a spectacle, the music on last year’s I Hate Myself felt unfinished and uncontrolled. It seemed that because Greathouse could make songs from video equipment, he should … and a lot of it, which resulted in Greathouse sounding like he was being played by his machines. That said, VCR5 are better. A lot better. I can only imagine how hard it is to work numerous archaic analog machines simultaneously, which makes VCR5’s stranglehold on their sounds that much more impressive. Fusoya’s opener “Life2” is an audio assault of double bass and glitched symphonies until it devolves into a (dare I say it?) beautiful piece of atmospherics. “Charm” is a mini-industrial epic with many movements that comes close to … club danceable (!). Although there are some moments that seem unintentional (those drum machines are hard to wrangle) they are few and far between.

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Ryan Bradford

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