Plains (10K Islands)
Although South Florida may have a lot of indie (as in independent) bands, until recently it's been light on "indie rock" in its classicist form. We mean straightforward, meat-and-potatoes jangle rock with plenty of intellectual wit but not a lot of cross-genre trickery. That's especially true in Miami, where underground cool-kid acts have long tended toward the danceable. All of that makes Plains, one of Miami's best new bands, such an anomaly. By concentrating on no-frills, shambling rock of the kind best developed in the '90s, the group actually sounds fresh.
Live, Plains is something of a supergroup -- well, sister paper Miami New Times even named the band Best Supergroup in its most recent Best of Miami issue. Guitarist Jorge Graupera, bassist Max Johnston, and on-and-off fill-in drummer Jorge Rubiera are all familiar figures to local music-watchers.
Still, the beating heart of the group is frontman Michael McGinnis, an engineer and composer at Honor Roll Music. He's taken the reins fully on the band's self-titled debut album, playing the whole thing himself live and settling on a production that's just rough enough at the edges.
It doesn't surprise that McGinnis originally hails from outside of Chicago. The album's 13 songs course with a marked Midwestern kind of earnestness and plenty of self-reflection. Album opener "End of the World" will appeal to fans of the kind of epically building drama perfected by bands like the National, et al., without falling victim to gimmicky melodrama. Then the previously internet-released "Black Feeling," for instance, is a waffling goodbye to sadness that will likely return. Musically it charges forward on a simple, minor-key riff before exploding in a beautiful Built to Spill-style mess of distortion at the end.
There are moments of pure celebration here too. "Hang On" is especially anthemic, bolstered by subtle keyboards and full of clap-along rhythms. And "Stains," with its charged-up tempo, is almost punk.
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In other words, it's a diverse collection of songs that's still well-edited into an opening salvo that's not just one of the best South Florida debuts of late but one of the best indie-rock efforts this year, full stop. Whether Plains is going for that kind of hype is another matter, though. The band, despite enjoying major devotion from area tastemakers, favors quality over quantity when appearing in public. Plains has played just a handful of shows and will keep it that way for the near future.
Luckily, you can catch them at the Vagabond for the band's official CD-release show on Friday, July 22, before the band hits a couple of dates in New York and Chicago for a mini-tour. You can also stream the whole album below via Soundcloud. Check it out.