Local Love: Buxton
Leon casino, Photo: Jay Dryden
There really aren’t too many times where I can say that I heard something and my first description of what I heard was that it is beautiful. In fact, I’ve thought that so infrequently, that I can remember how many times I’ve actually said it. However, when I sat three feet from a meeting about a video shoot for the band Buxton, my interest was peaked. What would transcribe from that point would be a series of chances to appear in that video, which lead to asking the band’s label for a copy of the new album, to falling in love with all that the album is. The album, “Half A Native” might be one of the most beautiful and perfectly crafted albums I’ve heard in quite some time. If you’re a band trying to break away from how you sounded in the past, this is how you do it. I don’t want to cause confusion, as this is a Buxton album through and through. But it’s definitely a more focused and definite departure from their previous works, where the band tapped producer Thom Monahan to be at the helm of this rebirth. The end result is an album that could break any artist into the greater mainstream while staying artful and entertaining to the band’s core.
The album opens with the very lush and grand sounding “What I’d Do,” where there’s a larger sound than what the band had utilized in the past. Crashing guitars that have a soft organ and keyboard sound that permeates the song throughout; Sergio’s vocals quickly remind you that this is Buxton. The lyrics coupled with this very strength laden pace, gave me the feeling of a new life. My first reaction was that it’s like you’re at a grand party that says goodbye to the shackles and negativity of the old South while it ushers in the positivity of the new South. This is followed by the very “Yankee Hotel Foxtrot” era Wilco sounding opener of “Good As Gone.” They don’t get too heavy on the Tweedy based sound; as the band distances themselves from Wilco by crafting the track to have multiple levels going off like firecrackers of artistry throughout. Piano that gets seared by a blazing guitar that finds it’s way in and out of the song, while a more subtle guitar sets the stage for a completely different bridge and crazed guitar sounds that pop up quickly before disappearing. That bridge gives the song a whole new birth where the band glacially paces into a true pop structure where it feels like a free form jam that’s structured…if that makes sense. “Old Haunt” finds its’ way onto the album, serving as the third track that has a very Townes Van Zandt feel that’s mixed with an almost Buffalo Springfield kind of diversity. The song feels like the band got loose and just kind of jammed, but still kept the lid on the session. There’s a moment in the song where Sergio’s voice opens up and this rush of guitars come in like a tidal wave of sound.
The title track to the album, “Half A Native” has an astral opening that’s cut by a backpacker guitar sound, coupled with a slide that slinks in and out. The subtle yet forward nature of the guitar hook reminds me of something that you’d find on a song from Conor Oberst. There’s a build up on the track that utilizes a shaker, and a soft beat that keeps you in suspense while you marvel at the group’s craft of the tune. And then, before you know it; the song has reached its’ end. The grand structure returns on the fifth song, “High Tones,” where the band culminates on the opening that sounds like something from another era where country music is still king. The song segues into a more pop based pace while that grand structure will find its way in and out through organ work, and slide guitar. The band really steps it up by providing a landscape to tell the song’s story without words. There are moments on the song where it feels like the Buxton of the past is jamming with the Buxton of today; and the two meet in this gorgeous middle ground. This is followed by the most “rock” and upward paced song on the album, “Miss Catalina 1992.” I felt like this was the standout song on this record, because it took the listener to a whole new world in which the band could thrive. The quick structure that emanates a fifties rockabilly vibe, while Sergio swoons atop a guitar coupling alongside Chris Wise’s bass culminating the most hooks on the album. It’s catchy nature will have you humming the song for days after just one listen, thus cementing the band’s ability to write on the next level. The following song, “A Little Bit More” sets the stage for a softer side of the band. The blue collar overtones that slip from the lyrics like secrets between two lovers really adds an element that wasn’t as obvious in the earlier tracks. The piano hits like a plate of dishes crashing in a quiet restaurant, and add a depth in the simplest way.
The following track, “Be Somebody Else” slides onto the album with an almost psych intensity, and is followed by the simplicity but complex vibes of “The Heart Won’t Bend.” However, the tenth song, “Icebreaker” takes the listener somewhere else again, where Buxton has an almost Jack White feel to the song. This is mixed with a hint of Bonnie Raitt and the rich compositions of Harry Nilsson, where the band really embraces a new sound to engage in. Again, they bring in several guitar hooks from Austin Sepulvado and Jason Willis that find their way onto the song that already has a stride that’s jogging like a neighbor in a fun run. The piano adds an element while Justin Terrell’s drums and the rhythm guitar keep the song moving along in a fun and simple way. The album is finished off by the lonely sense of “Pool Hall,” where the melody is offset by a simple noodling of the guitar and a very simplistic drum beat that works like an echo in the dark. There’s a buildup that occurs before Sergio cuts that tension like a knife with a simple heartfelt vocal; before the track trails off with a basic slide guitar that adds more depth than I can describe.
The way in which this band uses each member’s strong points like pocket aces should definitely be noted. Each song has this emotional magnitude that either makes its presence known immediately, or that hides in the background sometimes to never outshine what the band is doing in the foreground. Easily a contender for album of the year, Buxton’s “Half A Native” is a must own release for anyone who was a fan of the band, as well as anyone who’s just discovering their sound with them. You can get your own copy of the album, when Buxton performs at Continental Club on February 27th.