There may be nothing I hate more in the music industry than bloggy genre names—the kind that pop up in critical jargon and then fade away in the trailing breeze of some indie band’s sophomore slump, never to be heard from again. That’s probably the ultimate fate of “yes wave,” a recent post-post-modern genre label purportedly meant to describe bands with actual instrumental dexterity who revel in upbeat structures and positive vibes. I guess it also helps if band members have college degrees…or something. At any rate, the more I stew on “yes wave,” the more I like it. It’s a catchy enough phrase on its own terms, and if there’s any buzzword that actually captures a band’s sonic DNA, this would be the one.
Enter Rubblebucket: an almost overwhelmingly upbeat eight-piece with a sound as infectious as their silly band name. Fronted by the honey-voiced Kalmia Traver (who also pulls sax duties, in addition to the occasional badass whistling solo), Rubblebucket aren’t your average indie-rock/jam line-up, sporting trumpet, trombone, and a full-time percussionist, added to the standard guitar-bass-drums-keys configuration. And they put the added muscle to good use—the songs on their sophomore LP (but might as well be debut), Omega La La, are joyous jungles of worldly pop-funk, instrumentally rich but catchy enough to ass-kick Katy Perry off the pop charts (in a just world)—mega-melodic without sacrificing an ounce of atmosphere or creativity.
“Down in the Yards” sets a tough-to-follow template, built around a two-note electric guitar chime, developed with washes of synth and electronics—a luxurious texture that explodes into a horn-heavy, bass-driven, full-band bloom. “L’Homme” is a psychedelic French lullaby set over a fluent groove (with an especially excellent video game synth loop), climaxing in a Kid A-ish avalanche of processed vocals effects. Meanwhile, it only takes about 30 seconds to establish recent single “Silly Fathers” as the year’s hookiest, grooviest pop celebration.
Only a band as infectious as Rubblebucket could twist a chorus as goofy as “You came out of a lady, oh!” (or—as I initially heard the lyric—”You came out of a lady hole!”) into a declaration of ass-shaking, hand-holding human unity. But that’s what these wide-eyed weirdos are all about—funky, tough-as-nails grooves chiseled into a stone of smiles. I would call them one of the year’s most promising young bands—but they’re already better than that. “Yes wave?” “Yes please!”