On Saturday March 24th, I stopped in to a “youth” house party in Woodstock that routinely puts on live music – much to the chagrin of its neighbors. The party is run by my local Postmaster, a 20-something who spends his down time in our rural Post Office practicing electric guitar – acoustically, I should note.
I figured I was in for routine angst-driven punk emo thrash. Instead I stood in a front room alongside half-a-dozen other people catching the last few songs by the superb Landowner, visiting from the artistically thriving area of Western Massachussetts. The music was angular, noisy, sharp, clever – a marvelous combo of hardcore, prog and Joy Division-style post-punk. (Follow this link to see Landowner “on stage” in Woodstock.) As it turned out, both myself and the group’s lead singer Dan Shaw had been listening to said Mancunians earlier that day – so the reference point was not coincidental. I found out as much when I bought a cassette – yes, a cassette – off Shaw after the gig. Impressive Almanac cost me $5 for a full album in a beautifully designed fold-out sleeve, complete with digital download. For this we can thank the cassette-only label Good Person Recordings out in Seattle.
Impressive Almanac is, well, impressive. For all the lo-fi noise, these are proper musicians at work, and Dan has a great eye for conversational, agit-pop lyrics. I’m particular taken by the trio of songs that end side 1: ‘Identical’ (“I quit my job for a better one, but the new job was… identical”), ‘Ancestral Home’ (in which our leaders solve a water shortage brought on global warming by melting “Antartica’s remaining ice caps to make a little more drinking water to sell”), and ‘Negative Creek’ (“yes, I would like a plastic bag with that, with some luck it will find its way to an ocean like they designed it to”).
Landowner is a side-project for Dan, who invests most of his musical time in the group Health Problems, a band that has also played the Rock City Road house party. The noise complaints have resulted in the gigs moving over the road to the Woodstock Community Center, at the invitation of the town board. At least Woodstock is a place that looks to find solutions, even to things that really shouldn’t be a problem in the first place. I’m glad I stopped in while the house party was ongoing. And I’m even happier to have something new to stick in the high-quality stereo dual-deck cassette player that’s been part of my rack-mount system for longer than my kids have been alive!