New Artist Week continues with the fourth of seven new groups you should have your radar before 2011 ends.
The download of Radio Tragedy! is currently on sale for just $5 at Amazon. Snag it here!
While not a new group by any stretch, San Francisco’s Tea Leaf Green pulled off one of the reinventions of the year with Radio Tragedy! (released June 7 on Greenhouse Records), which lunges at one with the hungry-for-blood urgency and creative electricity of a band fresh on the scene – a thoroughly modern slab that bubbles over with sonic curiosity and world weary sensibilities. In ways, this set is a new Ground Zero for TLG, a marker between their jam-rooted beginnings and what comes next.
More than once in 2011, I’ve sat folks down with preconceptions about this band and made them listen to key parts of Radio Tragedy! and never once had them walk away holding onto their old notions. This album reveals a band living up to their potential and ready to begin jettisoning anything that doesn’t serve the music in their heads. While seven albums and more than a dozen years in may seem a strange time to upend one’s sound, it speaks to the group’s increasing distance from their grooving, good time early work and the increased songwriting and musicianship firepower they’re armed with today, particularly noticeable in the thickened low end courtesy of fifth and newest member percussionist Cochrane McMillan.
Where most bands with a comfortable following on the festival and jam band circuit might be reluctant to fiddle with a good thing, Tea Leaf boldly steps out with a trio of tunes – “All Washed Up,” “Easy To Be Your Lover” and “You’re My Star” – that almost completely recalibrate what one might expect from them, revealing a hard charging modern rock sound with vibrant studio sensibilities (prodded and tweaked ably by producer Jeremy Black). The studio lead vocal debut of freakishly talented bassist Reed Mathis continues the journey into the new before a few tunes that hark back to their earlier work. Being honest, it’s these echoes of TLG past that keep Radio Tragedy! from taking its full, fearless leap into unknown terrain, but one still comes away thinking this is their Summerteeth and the rangy glory of their Yankee Hotel Foxtrot waits around the bend.
Today’s Tea Leaf Green has far more in common with Dr. Dog and Blitzen Trapper than they do with Phish, and that’s nothing but good for the music, which has simply never been more interesting or worth repeat spins than Radio Tragedy!. Combined with TLG’s fiery and increasingly varied live shows, we’re witnessing the next big chapter in a story that seems far from written despite the somewhat funereal tone of some recent songs. Just as the band bravely reassessed their goals as artists, it’s time for anyone who’s merely heard the name Tea Leaf Green but not delved into their recent work to take time to meet an exciting, still-young group as they move into what promises to be their best music yet.