Music News

Pleasant Grove

Dallas-based Pleasant Grove is generally lumped into the alt-country subgenre, which helps explain why the band will be joined in Denver by Munly and the Lee Lewis Harlots, Sound of Corduroy and Brian Bourgault. But The Art of Leaving, recently released on the Badman imprint, is so vast and sweeping that a single category can't contain it. "Only a Mountain" -- one of the disc's high points, appropriately enough -- has plenty of twang, thanks to vivid pedal-steel playing by Joseph Butcher, a onetime Grove member who's now devoting himself to another twisted Dallas combo, the Polyphonic Spree. Elsewhere, however, the core quartet of Marcus Striplin, Bret Egner, Jeff Ryan and Tony Hormillosa combine typical Western elements with laconic tempos and deceptively lazy drones to achieve an atmospheric sound capable of touching the distant horizon. This wide-screen approach is artsy, to be sure, but when Striplin and Egner's exquisitely bored vocals attach themselves to an especially graceful melody, as they do on "We Made Our Way," they render potential accusations of pretentiousness utterly moot. Pleasant Grove is a pigeon too big to fit into its hole.
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Michael Roberts has written for Westword since October 1990, serving stints as music editor and media columnist. He currently covers everything from breaking news and politics to sports and stories that defy categorization.
Contact: Michael Roberts