With as many hues and varieties as there are in music's stylistic box, why are there so many trite, unimaginative releases? Why not mix it up? Try something different? Take a chance?
That's exactly what Aminal (formerly Aminal Music) does on its introductory pair of five-song EPs. Of the two EPs, one, A Will to Fight, is a free download. Its counterpart, A Face to Fight, is available for purchase. Picking the better of the two is a fool's errand, though: Taken together they explore commitment, dissolution and self-determination, though while they fit together nicely, they don't adhere to a central concept. Still, these songs would make a fine album, if anyone even concerns themselves with such things these days.
Instead of confining themselves to one set of genre conceits, Aminal mixes and matches, touching on art rock, garage, roots and pop across the eminently listenable 10 tracks. To wit, I've listened to each of them at least a dozen times, and I'm not done with them yet. In all fairness, Aminal's members are hardly musical freshmen in these parts: Singer/ guitarist Patrick O'Neill (Honored Guests) and Cameron Weeks (Comas, Black Skies) are scene vets, which helps explain the quality of these releases to an extent. This is much better than anyone should have a right to expect the first time around, though.
A Will to Fight, the free disc, leads with its strongest and titular track: Opening to a loping, finger-picked country-twang, O'Neill confides: "All my lines are well-rehearsed/ All my sins are fully endorsed ... I'm no damn good at keeping friends, you say the race is long, well, I'm going to win." A traditional tale of a troubled relation, O'Neill eventually gives in as the song builds to a tremendous, ringing climax. Its counterpart in temperament, "Last Breath," alternates rootsy guitar and harmony vocals with a driving, buoyant chorus ("It feels like home," O'Neill shouts), before emerging fully formed into an organ-driven garage break.
Based upon the sharper guitar, increased keyboards and backing vocals and generally bigger arrangements, A Face to Fight feels like the more recent, developed effort: Opener "Drag Me Away" boasts a jaunty melody with a vaguely prog air, reminiscent of early Genesis. Keyboards and vocal harmonies drive the subtly insistent "King of Cross Words," which shines with a bit of '60s flower power warmth. Again, though, it's the title track that steals the show. Pedal steel gives a shimmer to the lithe, folksy rave, while Weeks works the ride cymbal, maintaining the understated vibe of resplendent '60s pop. The wonder is in how well everything coalesces, well-balanced and without a hemline. Without showing off the hook like cleavage, Aminal's engaging manner easily disarms you and sweeps you in with a multitude of charms.
Aminal plays a release party for its EPs at Local 506 Thursday, May 7, at 9:30 p.m. Schooner and Lake Inferior open the $5 bill.