Call it a concert or call it a cleansing, this merry band of melodramatic banshees have something to say. Rubblebucket, a Brooklyn-based collective featuring lead-vocalist Kalmia Traver, Alex Toth on trumpet, Adam Dotson on trombone, David Cole on drums and Ian Hershey on guitar, is coming off of two sold-out shows in San Francisco and Los Angeles promoting their most recent release, “Survival Sounds.”
Produced and mixed by John Congleton, the mastermind behind St. Vincent, Angel Olsen and Cloud Nothings, “Survival Sounds” croons a tone of instability, vulnerability, falling down and getting back up again in a way that stomps through the puddles of a rainstorm and paints a rainbow below our dance feet. Through all the struggle and reflection come breaks in the clouds that make us smile to be alive. It’s a general exclamation about all of life’s nuances just as much as it is a celebration of the fact that we even get to experience them.
You’ll find a home in Rubblebucket if you’re a fan of Alt-J and/or tUnE-yArDs: they’re loud and rambunctious, producing trippy anthems about life with big-band sound like low-key ska and vocals that reminded me of the Dirty Projectors. If Bjork and Grace Slick could somehow become one person and collaborate with Streetlight Manifesto featuring Ben Folds, the result might be similar to what Rubblebucket is laying down.
“On the Ground,” the album’s lead track, starts off as a meandering reverie into a big horn explosion as it brings us down to the ground, a netherworld where people flap upside down wings under a sign flashing L-O-V-E-E in neon letters. Traver paints a shaky existence here with us, creating an awesome contrast with the giant musical space the supporting ensemble creates around her. Her pleas to not be shaken around are ironic though, as the entire album captures the essence of day-to-day life and rattles its cage until something fun happens.
Once we catch our balance enough to play, “Carousel Ride” brings a somewhat somber commentary about the daily grind, and the banes of going round and round in the same loops with our appearance, occupation and everyday routines. With a beautiful harmony and layers of techy twiddles over haunting ambiance, Rubblebucket crafts a playful tone about the humdrum revolutions on this carousel to revel in the rotation while we hope for a miracle. Instead, we go to dance in the fire with the reaper, walking with him around another loop under falling dreams and over the pain of the moments we boogey too close to the flame. The muffled brass of the trombone and trumpet gives the song a really rich street-corner feel, something you’d want to pass and smile at on your morning walk through New Orleans.
The third track, “Sound of Erasing,” feels like a less-emo Architecture in Helsinki with an upbeat touch of The Go-Team. It’s about “skinny dipping your pain away,” as Traver described it to the audience at their recent NPR Tiny Desk Concert. I listened to this song during a rainstorm, and it was a perfect fit: the raindrops plucking the empty cans and brickwork outside my window were exactly the sound of erasing, except now they had a theme song to set the mood. Swapping the brass for flutes at times, the tune might inspire you to walk down the street in the sunshine, pointing at all your neighbors and nodding with a smile as you erase those bad vibes away.
Rubblebucket is bringing the party with Vacationer to the Woodward Theater tomorrow night, 4/4 at 9pm. Get ready to move and groove with so many feels together, because it’s going to be the most beautiful bucket of rubble you’ve ever cherished.