Pet Rounds was released by Twenty First Century Fox April 7, 2015. The Louisville band will be performing at Apocalypse Brew Works as part of Poorcastle Festival in Louisville Sunday, July 12.
Stepping into this album, I didn’t know a thing about Twenty First Century Fox besides the facts they are from Louisville and will be performing at Poorcastle Festival this weekend. Sometimes I think music is best that way. It’s like watching a movie without seeing any trailers: everything is a surprise and you can enjoy it without any expectations.
Listening to Twenty First Century Fox’s Pet Rounds this way was the musical equivalent of seeing The Cabin in the Woods solely on the recommendation “It’s crazy, you’ll like it.” (In other words, I thoroughly enjoyed both of these things.)
Without any familiarity band with the band, I was pleasantly greeted by the rumbling drums of “Lil’ Red”. There are scattered, low-fi guitar chords punching through the opening. Most importantly, the song brought a lot of energy to this album right away. A couple of shifts in direction here kept it interesting, finishing off with a soaring vocal send-off and trumpet flying in over those bumpy drums. There’s a lot to take in here and it’s only the first song.
The next, “Sunshine and the Teflon Pan”, is wildly different – but at this point I’m beginning to expect the unexpected. High pitched female vocals are backed by a low, bass male voice chanting “I sing into my singin’ stick, I sing into my singin’ stick!” Before you know it, that sing-along erupts into an infectious, cutting bar fight riff. That fight quickly becomes a bouncy, bass-y feel-good dance song, before jumping back into a head banging frenzy. This song is just a blast. It’s cool to take a song in different directions, but it’s impressive to see those different ideas transition as well as they do here.
One of my favorite parts about Twenty First Century Fox is the charisma the female vocals bring, and “Ella’s Hits” is a strong example. This is the first song where the vocals truly seem to be at the forefront, and that was enjoyable. Each prior song was fun, but this one reveals the band’s real staying power with me. The sometimes choppy lyric delivery makes this one too catchy to deny. Also, have to love the drawn-out singing with the pulsating drums pumping this song up near the middle.
Then, there’s “Juicy’s Bowl” – an edgier rock song once it gets rolling. Not sure what I think of the vocals against the metal sound. Not to say I don’t like it, but something feels out of place. Or maybe something is missing. Still, this is a cool song. It would be interesting to hear what this is like live at Poorcastle in comparison. The second half of the song is more bass-heavy and playful, feeling more akin to the previous three songs. Then it springs back into its edgy side. If nothing else, this one was interesting and I found myself more curious about how it was put together than simply listening.
“Fig” is a sort of blippy, fast paced track. I think it’s an example of the band’s side I enjoy more. The vocals fit into this number better for me than before on “Juicy’s Bowl”. This one’s got those guitar riffs cutting through the song’s ascending, poppy vocals. There’s some quick guitar-picking, some singing about ‘Crazy thoughts, running away” and “Coming home again one day.” It feels like a signature song for the band.
But once again, Twenty First Century Fox shows off their ability to shape shift at will. I love this slow bass intro on “Josephine”, how the drums slink in behind, followed by a slew of other funky sounds and guitar riffs. All this is anchored by the song’s central question and lyric: “Do you know what it’s like to be too shy?” This song has my favorite lyrics on the album, and the sound is just as quirky as the character in the song. After literally snapping back into the intro groove, the last minute and a half or so of this song turns into an escalating romp, kind of like the explosion when something has been bottled up for far too long. “Josephine” is my favorite song here.
Next, “Igor” sports a slowly climbing instrumental opening into a really sharp buzzing electric riff backed by an organ and shuffling drums. The vocals on this song have a lot of character as well. It’s head-turning hearing the wildly spoken “Really don’t think we’re close like that” lyrics and later “Don’t condescend / Don’t get me started.” Near the end there’s some funny ad-libbing, sounding frustrated: “Don’t get me started, don’t even get me started!” Moments like these reflect the personality this band must have.
Finally, a real slow burner. “Secret Cock” is the big finale, sounding fairly emotional: “Hide so you can’t seek / You’ll never find me.” The delicate singing and instrumentation comes off as vulnerable in a way the album hadn’t until this point. The song wears its heart on it’s sleeve in a laid back fashion until about midway through, when some chugging bass comes in with swirling guitar picking. It wouldn’t be Twenty First Century Fox if they didn’t have one more trick up their sleeve just when things seem finished. Suddenly, there’s a sunny ending to the closest thing to a sad song the band managed to approach.
Pet Rounds is an excellent release from a local band, and it’s a release I’ll actually return to among the full range of music I’m currently listening to. This album’s second best quality is that you can never know what’s coming next, and it’s best quality is that each surprise is almost always interesting and enjoyable. Twenty First Century Fox hit a home run here, and I’ll be excited to see where they go next.
You can buy Pet Rounds on Bandcamp here.