Boulder, Colorado, on average, gets 300 days of sunshine a year, making it by nature one of the healthiest, fittest and most optimistic places on Earth. A dry climate, due to its high desert climate, made Boulder a popular site for people recovering from tuberculosis in the late 1800s and early 1900s, leaving a legacy of smokestacks to mar the foothills of the Front Range of the Rocky Mountains. Boulder has, at times, played home to Stephen King, while he was writing The Shining, the homebase for the "Good Guys" in King's The Stand, as well as being a mecca for New Age philosophies and cutting-edge technologies, thanks to the presence of several large institutions (and supposedly sometimes the coldest place in the Universe, when MIT scientists cooled atomic gasses to nearly absolute zero).
Boulder is, quite frankly, a complex and varied place, which is neatly summarized in the music of Not The Arrow that veer from straight ahead indie rock to dreamy, drone-y art rock, and all points in between.
Not The Arrow have been active since 2009, but this self-titled six-track EP Not the Arrow is their first official recording, having previously put their efforts into live activities. Not The Arrow met at a weird old tavern known as the Sundown Saloon (known to locals, sometimes, as the Scumdown Saloon), and again at a Spoon show. So, one point weird old West, one point contemporary indie rock. The triptych was complete with a chance encounter on Craigslist that put the band in touch with David Goodheim, a musical theorist, who helped the band finalize and flesh out their sound.
Each member of Not The Arrow brings songs to the table, which is then worked over by the collective until it is polished to perfection. This allows for a diverse sound, which still maintains a holistic integrity - a distinctive sound, if you will. Not The Arrow's self-titled EP also connects the dots between the various stages of the band's history. "Sweatervest," "On The Lawn" and "When I Think I Got You" capture the band's earliest phases, while more atmospheric numbers like "Run Around" and "Music For Reading" - my personal favorite - reflect where the band is heading. If these tracks, in their amorphous beauty, were any indication, I'd say we're all in for a real treat.
Not The Arrow deserves props for a number of reasons. First, and foremost, they should be applauded for blending experimentation with pop craft. If music's going to keep growing and innovating, pop and noise need to get together and make a pact. Noise needs to be reined in a bit, by considering the audience as well as the explosion, while pop needs to not be so complacent and self-congratulatory. Remember, song forms and structures can be easily disrupted with dangerous consequences. Just look at Stravinsky and The Rites Of Spring, to see how quickly, and how drastically, things can change.
And it's all thanks to innovators like Not The Arrow.
Secondly, and almost as important, is Boulder - not the most friendly place for bands and live music. Harsh zoning laws keep practice space at a minimum, as well as being hard on live music. There are just not that many places to BE experimental, in Boulder. Not The Arrow is clearly committed, to play adventurous sounds and hone their craft.
Whether you're looking for music to read to, drive to, stare out the window, go for a hike, start a band, or start a revolution. Their music is as varied as Boulder's history and landscape, on which they will hopefully leave a mark.
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