Several years back, one of the Dallas Observer music editors stated that the local music year didn't begin until February. The editor (I can't recall which one) said that major local releases don't happen in December or January, and that things don't pick up until February. That may be true in most years, but I have to take exception to that theory for this year. Today on iTunes, two of the most eagerly anticipated local albums of the year were released.
The first of the two albums is the long anticipated debut full length by Menkena, With You I'll Travel. For those who follow the blog, you may have noticed that I've mentioned the band maybe a time or thousand. Yes, I am a major fan, and with good reason. Jimmy Menkena, lead singer and songwriter for the band, manages to create some of the most gorgeous shoegaze sonic landscapes this town has ever seen. That alone would be reason enough to celebrate Menkena's music. But if you only focus on the melodic end of the band, you're missing out on at least half the charm of the band. Whereas most shoegaze acts are content to focus almost exclusively on the atmosphere of the melody, Mr. Menkena pays as much attention to lyrical detail as the melody. Even if you strip away all the gorgeous shoegaze arranges, what lies underneath are songs and stories that stand on their own. Then once the dreamy sonic landscape is incorporated into the song, the result is simply auditory bliss. For lack of a better description, these are songs that you want to get lost in.
The Menkena CD is reason enough to be excited, but the local music action doesn't stop there. The O's sophomore effort on Idol Records, Between the Two, also hits iTunes today. And while this may be the band's sophomore release, there is absolutely no sophomore slump here. All the things that fans have come to love about this duo are still in tact: sharp lyrics, great harmonies, strong musicianship, and simple yet catchy melodies. Songs like "We'll Go Walkin'" and "Tryin' to Have a Good Time" are sure to put a smile on the grumpiest among us. I've used the term "party bluegrass" to describe the band's sound, and The O's are keeping the party going strong.
Menkena's CD release show happens this Saturday at LaGrange, and you can also get the CD at Good Records on Thursday, where the band will do an in-store performance plus sign copies of With You I'll Travel. The O's CD release show isn't until February 11th, and it will take place at Club Dada. Whether you get these two albums on iTunes today or wait until the physical CD comes out, these are both CDs that are essentials for any true local music fan to own.