Cloud Cult rock dramatic indie-pop. - Oh My Rockness

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Cloud Cult rock dramatic indie-pop.

August 28, 2007
The ever-climactic Cloud Cult comes back to town to play the grand old Bowery Ballroom. Back in April they sold-out two shows at Mercury Lounge, so this venue is their just reward. Now I'm no mental-math-magician (2 smaller sold-out Mercury Lounge crowds = 1 big sold-out Bowery show?), but it's only logical to assume tickets to this one will go in a hurry too.

I know we've told you before, but Oh My Rockness was fortunate enough to have Cloud Cult participate in our SXSW show down in Austin this year, and let us tell you, they have some hardcore followers. The place was packed up front with fans trying to get as close as possible to Craig Minowa and his sweet smoke machine. And it's a good thing there were a bunch of people up there too, because seeing Cloud Cult live is meant to be a collective euphoric experience; an empty room just wouldn't cut it for this band.

When you see Cloud Cult, it's a complete sensory experience. Instruments erupt into crescendo, lights and smoke swirl, and painters paint (more on that in a minute) as singer and leader Craig Minowa belts out his soul-searching songs of heartache and hope. If that sounds a little dramatic, well, that's kind of the point. This music is unabashed emotion. And yes, perhaps it's a little overdramatic to have two artists stationed behind the band painting abstract pictures from blank canvases, but if you can allow it to be what it is, it's sort of cool too. The band auctions off the paintings at the end and gives the proceeds to charity, which is definitely cool.

The Minneapolis band has been around for awhile now, but only recently have they broken out of their "cult" (hardy har har) status and started receiving widespread recognition. The sudden props from new fans and critics alike had a lot to do with the release of their brilliant album Advice from the Happy Hippopotamus in 2005. It is an album full of soaring orchestration and instantly accessible melodies. Think The Shins meets The Flaming Lips. Their latest record The Meaning of Eight is just as strong (and just as long...there's something like twenty-tracks). But really, most people have converted to the Cloud Cult club after seeing them live.

Minowa is an exceptional vocalist (his voice sounds a lot like James Mercer) and is undoubtedly a D.I.Y. musician. He puts out records on his own label, Earthology (all of Earthology's production materials are recyclable and much of the CD sales and concert profits go to environmental causes) and has little to no proper distribution.

If you see Cloud Cult live, and are prepared for the experience, you will most likely become a fan. Their performances are everything in understanding their appeal.

Opening is Montreal's Land of Talk. Singer Elizabeth Powell has often been compared to P.J. Harvey and Chan Marshall of Cat Power. Her voice does sound like Marshall's at times, especially during the band's rare slower moments, and her lyrics do have some of that same angsty sass that Harvey has, but what this trio from Montreal really sounds like is a "big" band.

Land of Talk's songs are definitely guitar driven -- they fuzz, they swirl, and they have up-tempo choruses that would sound good in stadiums (or big parks). Land of Talk will probably be pretty popular. And they're just another reason Toronto is right now thinking: "Montreal must be stopped!"

Cloud Cult and Land of Talk play Bowery Ballroom, on Saturday, September 8th.


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