The more I listen to Games of May, the more I’m impressed. The small collection of their songs I have in my library run the gauntlet of musical genres – jazz, Latin, rock; and do I detect a hint of burlesque? How can one band stab at so many genres and still create a solid, connected sound?
Moreover … how did their music end up in my iTunes library? After all they’re from St. Cloud, Minnesota. I’d never heard of St. Cloud, Minnesota until meeting my freshman-year RAs, both of whom hail from the oddly named town. Within one of my RA’s music collections, which I so happily found on my dorm’s network, I stumbled across the band in shuffle mode. The song was jazzy – not an upbeat jazz, but a sultry, smoky jazz, quietly controlled unlike so many young, local bands’. After some library-searching (“What was that band called? I think it started with a ‘G’ … maybe a ‘J’? Definitely not ‘B’…”) my RA happily gave me the ten songs she had, album unknown, track numbers unknown, production year unknown.
Let’s see: how did I describe them earlier?
“Jazzy” – Look no further for your sultry jazz fix than “Playing With the Lions.” A slowly creeping rhythm, lyrics almost whispered into the microphone, and organs? Why, yes, that’s sultry all right. That is, of course, until you get into the all-rock breakout a third away from the end of the song full of cymbal crashes, reverb, and guitar riffs … where did my “sultry” jazz go? It’s a surprising change, but somehow it fits right in.
Now what other slightly contrived words did I use to describe this anything-but-contrived band?
“Latin” – You got your Latin beats mixed in with my jazz! But you’ve got to love those syncopated beats, that acoustic guitar, and the 1950’s-esque electric riffs (“Cowabunga dude?”). Tucked away within their repertoire is “Siento,” the fiery Latin lover.
“Rock” – Oh yes there is plenty of rocking left to do: think Smashing Pumpkins with a hint of Pink Floyd. The intriguing and unique flavor of Incubus mixed with a hint of the eccentricity of Panic! At The Disco (before their exclamation-point-ectomy). Who are these guys, Girl Talk?
No – there’s no Jay Z to be found.
And then there’s Antarctica, Parts I and II, a modern-day rock fairy tale (or myth, if you prefer). Part I blends so well into Part II that part of me thinks they should be one song. But cleaving the tracks together would remove that “To Be Continued” tension. Imagine seeing the first episode of a new season of The Office right after the last season’s conclusion’s cliffhanger. Yes, it would be immediately gratifying, but you wouldn’t get that gut-wrenching tension that, deep down, you know you love.
Months after first listening to the songs, and having put a couple of favorites in the “My Top Rated” playlist so conveniently programmed into the iTunes code, I decided to check up on my favorite St. Cloud quartet. A new album on August 20th? Could it be? Yes! A new album to be released on August 20th…2005.
Having been momentarily excited (and having, now embarrassingly, emailed the band for a copy of the CD) and immediately let down, I realize that even though the band probably isn’t playing any shows anymore, let alone making albums, the eleven songs I do have are plenty satisfying.
And besides, is the sequel ever as good as the original?
Games of May on: