Big Bullet Records is kindly sharing with us another free compilation culled from the tracks of its stable of varied and ever-talented acts. Terminal Ballistics, Volume Two, follows up on 2009’s first volume and shows the indie constellation of stars as compelling as ever, with vital new acts shuffling in next to stalwarts whose sounds have helped define the modern music sound in their region.
Middleton, Maryland’s Cait O’Shea cuts through her label-mates’ bluster and frantic effort with the simple and resigned “Past.” Her voice is lulling, and though there’s nothing ho-hum at all about the song, what I take away is how drowsy it makes me and that I like that it does.
Spirit Night‘s “AM (Demo Version)” helps balance the meaty-fisted entries on the comp with layered, thoughtful deliberation. I can’t help but feel I should be undergoing some sort of cinematic character revelation. This is not an unfamiliar quality with Spirit Night, and this song’s addition lends much-needed sincerity to the album’s second half.
The Demon Beat, that band almost synonymous with Big Bullet Records and responsible for constituent pieces of about 85% of the label’s acts, heave in “Young Lust,” a quick and smeary diversion from the band’s promising creative arc (in a good way). It comes across as a nervy land-grab into the kingdom of Jack White’s production style and shows that even in 76 frenzied seconds the Demon Beat are taking something that’s been theirs to claim all along.
I have to say, though, that my favorite track on Terminal Ballistics, Volume Two, is BBR’s least likely song: woodworkings‘s “New Freedom (Pa).” It’s a very restrained but evocative. And what I mean by least likely is that everyone else is addressing the listener with great earnest, trying to provoke or lead them to something. And that’s fine. But “New Freedom (Pa)” sort of…sits down beside you and is just there. I live in a Korean city of nearly 3 million people. I sat in a city park for a while today. Nobody looked like me, nobody wanted to talk to me (or could), and sometimes I couldn’t even tell if I was there. This is what it sounded that, and a song like that is a remarkable achievement and a great credit to the label.
For all the good on the comp, though, there’s also a little bit of not-good. And what I mean to say is that I just don’t know what to make of the alt.country/roots revival style that’s getting so much diligence paid into it. It’s a genre full of some really great stuff, but it’s also got a lot of bad Ryan Adams impressions. And I’m accusing anyone on Terminal Ballistics, Volume Two, of anything — I’ve actually had some very good things to say about a lot of them — but I just don’t know how many times a song can be retreaded and still sound vital.
Terminal Ballistics, Volume Two, showcases the wild spirit and determination of individuals who aren’t so much chasing dreams as simply responding to something banked deep down in the fiber of their being. Their growth from year to year is hard-earned, self-evident and all but inevitable. And that might be overselling the case a bit much, but there are so many bloodless nobodies trapped in routines they despise, I just can’t help but hip-hip-hurray when someone says f**k it and goes for it.
(And again, the compilation is free, which is great because it’s been however many years and I still don’t think I’ve paid for a single BBR release yet. Support local music!)