Essentials: Irontom’s “The Nitro EP” & Javier Dunn’s “Trails”

EPs can be anything from the wanton disposal of excess musical baggage to a band marking their territory but without the peeing on things…because that would be gross. With that in mind, it seems that Irontom is relatively baggage-free and intend to be in your face for a while. Here is Harry Hayes, Zach Irons, Daniel Saslow, Dane Sandborg, and Dylan Williams following up 2012’s The Loose EP with recorded versions of four songs which they have been fleshing out and kicking audience asses with live for nearly a year now. Where The Loose EP was a sensory teaser, The Nitro EP is a ballsy, self-assured calling card.

“It’s not enough just to play anymore.”

Within the breadth and space of that one sentence (actually several sentences but we’re parsing for brevity) Hayes and his brothers-in-no-nonsense serve up a deceptively simple and eloquently contained cease and desist letter on musical bullshit with “What Will Happen To All The Indie Stars,” the lead off track as well as a damned good question (think about it: where are approximately 85% of 2012’s “buzz bands” and blogosphere darlings extolled as the best thing since maple bacon donuts? Exactly). Alain Johannes (Queens of the Stone Age, Eleven, Them Cooked Vultures) was tasked with producing The Nitro EP aka harnessing Irontom’s funky and bombastic nature. Not taming it, but making it discernible for ears familiar and unfamiliar with the assault these guys unleash live. Nitro dishes power and muscular punch song for song with significant sound detail: You can hear what each member brings to the plate and it’s something to pay attention to because Saslow’s churchy keys are just as fundamental as Irons’ aggressive guitar bravado is to the walls of sound that they create. Essentially Nitro is “controlled bold” supported by above average songwriting (dig into the distress of “Tinkerbell”), the craft of melody, hook and musicianship at an enviable level of skill, particularly considering the band’s collective and individual youth. Hayes walks a line between self-critical and analytical in the push and pull of “Boy Born” and the title track is an example of the art of building a refined blitzkrieg.
From Hayes’ agitated vibtato and world-class ability to shriek a full chorus then fall back on a coo, to the rugged rhythms of Sandborg and Williams, The Nitro EP is the capture of a band’s lightening in a bottle (which you can release whenever you want) and an indie rock harbinger that Irontom is a bullshit-free zone.

Feel free to jump on the Irontom train. It’s a sweet ride.

Here’s the thing about Javier Dunn: He’s really pretty.

I probably should’ve used my inside voice there, but this is why my internet name is “dharma.” Another thing about Dunn is that for the past 10 years or so he has been something of a right-hand-man to songstress Sara Bareilles as her long-time touring guitarist and occasional collaborator. Great musical results have been the return on this partnership but there comes a time in every music man’s life when he’s got to pay attention to his own truth, whatever that truth may sound like.

Abandoning the role that he fashioned for himself as “merely” an acoustic singer/songwriter on the side, Dunn’s truth now sounds like that shyly confident romantic storyteller with a Taylor guitar on open mic night getting his synth-washed sexy back and phone numbers on cocktail napkins. It’s the sound of love and its potential, if not inevitable, pitfalls with an overlay of r&b groove and pop sense electronically tweaked, but gently so as never to become overbearing noise and lose the plot of a good song well sung. The focus of Trails (released on June 25th) is equally split among Dunn’s vulnerable, carmel-toned voice, his lyrical gifts and the emotional textures evoked by each song’s arrangements. From a tale of romancing via liquid courage (“Couple of Drinks”) to a melancholy duet with Bareilles (“If You Go”), Dunn’s done pretty well for himself in showcasing how hot a graceful coolness can be.

That and he’s really pretty. Check out his new video for “Couple of Drinks.”