Buxton, Nothing Here Seems Strange

Buxton, Nothing Here Seems Strange

There’s an incredible feeling of serenity throughout Nothing Here Seems Strange, the latest full-length from La Porte heroes Buxton. It’s this weird calmness, a kind of resignation, almost, that things are changing and there’s nothing that can be done about it. Singer/guitarist Sergio Trevino sings like a man who’s been knocked flat by life’s ferocious uppercut and is only now learning how to be steady on his feet once again, fully aware of what knocked him down and determined not to let it happen again.

Right from the start of “Wolves and Owls,” with its distant, sparse banjo, the band comes off soft and whispery, like a song heard far off through the trees. It reminds me of Fleet Foxes more than anything else, honestly — a lot of Nothing has that same gentle, bucolic, delicate-footed feel, and the beautiful vocal harmonies throughout bear a serious resemblance, too, although they never quite get to church-choir levels; Trevino’s back-and-forth lines with backing vocalist Haley Barnes, in particular, are gorgeous.

As a whole, in fact, Nothing Here Seems Strange feels a little bit like Buxton turning down and taking a step back from the bright lights on the stage. The band had previously danced down that line between rootsy indie-rock and country-folk, and here it seems as if they’ve strayed off that line and out into the backwoods, grasping tight to the more folky strains of their sound.

You shouldn’t take that to mean the whole thing’s yet another too-mellow chunk of indie-folk, however. Buxton take the (relative) quiet of tracks like “Fingertips,” which is rough-edged and bluesy but still low-key and subtle in the best possible way, and use it build a dark, solemn kind of tension, leaving you wondering what happens next. The album’s music for wandering in the wilderness, to be sure, but it’s not some cheery ramble; this is the sound of a man who needs to walk alone and think, to work things through.

There’s not a disappointing moment here, frankly, although some shine brighter than others, like the supremely catchy, Byrdsian jangle of “Blown A Fuse.” I swear, at least once or twice a release, guitarist Jason Willis throws in some kind of riff that literally makes my jaw drop and wonder why in the hell I’ve never heard that before, when it’s so obviously perfect and beautiful, and this track’s one of those moments.

Following track “Broke From Bread” is another one of those highlights, starting off slow and deliberate at first, with the rhythm section of drummer Justin Terrell and bassist Chris Wise stomping solemnly on down that dusty road, but eventually it revs up into an almost post-/prog-rock thing, with shifting time signatures and stutter-stop rhythms. The song only collapses back to roots-rock normalcy with the chorus, which practically demands you sing along, proclaiming your own inherent imperfection alongside the band.

Then there’s “Down In The Valley,” with its roaring, fiery guitars and driving rhythms, where Trevino paints a seemingly-tranquil scene of people content with their lives but balanced on the knife’s edge and uses it to craft a meditation on the nature of love. When he sings “The wave of fear falls upon your face / Like hell spoke and it’s saving you a place,” it hits me right in the chest like a well-aimed brick, and my jaded, cynical self really, truly doesn’t feel that kind of a reaction to most song lyrics these days.

“Riverbed,” the B-side of the band’s 2011 7″ release (along with sweetly lilting “Boy Of Nine,” which is pretty great in its own right), grabs me pretty tightly, as well. For some reason, the fragile, up-close vocals and somber arrangement makes me think of nothing so much as Dinosaur Jr.’s “Not The Same,” although Trevino’s voice is thankfully far from the J. Mascis’s cracked warble. It’s just that same feeling of uncertainty and regret, the apology for things unsaid and the half-spoken wish they could be undone.

Towards the album’s end, “Oh My Boy” heads down a darker road, with a father telling his son to pick up and run from some terrible, terrible thing the child’s done, unknowingly, off to drive through the night as fast as they can away from the scene. It’s a haunting, murky tune, tinged nicely by Austin Sepulvado’s off-to-the-side organ playing, and steps softly into closing track “Body Count,” which is somber, elegaic poetry about evil in the world and the people in it.

Now, I’ll admit it — this album wasn’t quite what I’d been looking for from this band. I’d expected/hoped they’d steer more towards the “rock” side of their musical personality, thinking I’d be hearing one barnburner after another and be sitting here with a big grin on my face.

And no, that’s not what happened. While there’s definitely fire here, it’s fire that’s restrained, harnessed and kept low, like a campfire smoldering in a darkened forest while you sit around it in silence with your friends, nobody saying a word. By the time I’m a few songs into Nothing Here Seems Strange, I’ve forgotten why I wanted to hear Buxton make a rock album to begin with; why in the hell would I want anything other than this?

[Buxton is playing its CD release party 2/4/12 at Fitzgerald’s, along with Marmalakes & Featherface.]
(New West Records -- http://newwestrecords.com/; New West Records (Facebook) -- http://www.facebook.com/newwestrecords; Buxton -- http://buxtonband.com/; Buxton (Facebook) -- http://www.facebook.com/buxtonband; Buxton (Tumblr) -- http://buxtonband.tumblr.com/)
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Review by . Review posted Thursday, February 2nd, 2012. Filed under Features, Reviews.

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8 Responses to “Buxton, Nothing Here Seems Strange

  1. DAC on February 3rd, 2012 at 6:49 am

    Great review — and I agree, it wasn’t quite what I expected either, but am glad the band chose to take a risk instead of playing it safe.

  2. brandon on February 3rd, 2012 at 2:13 pm

    Fantastic review! Can’t wait to grab a copy. I remember sitting in an old gf’s car that was friends with members of this band way back in its infancy years and years ago, and thinking the stuff they had then was great and refreshing. They’ve come a long long way and never disappointed for a minute.

  3. SPACE CITY ROCK » Yr. Weekend, Pt. 2: Buxton (Rev’d!) + Bang Bangz + Co-Pilot + Holy Fiction/Orchestra (Interviewed!) + More on February 4th, 2012 at 4:06 pm

    […] and while I was a little leery of things going that way, it works. See the full review on over here, and you can download two of the tracks from the album (and preceding 7″), “Boy Of […]

  4. SPACE CITY ROCK » Yr. Weekend, Pt. 2: Buxton + Fitz Big Ass Summer Party + Art Institute + Chris Bean Memorial + Caroline Sessions Finale + More on July 28th, 2012 at 11:05 am

    […] dammit. I’d almost forgotten how freaking awesome they are, and then they finally released Nothing Here Seems Strange earlier this year, it hit me like a brick to the face: “Holy crap, that’s right — […]

  5. SPACE CITY ROCK » Yr. Weekend, Pt. 1: Tom Carter Benefit + Weird Party + False Idols + Free The Water + Silver Snakes (MP3!) + More on August 24th, 2012 at 9:36 pm

    […] And yes, I do still think it’s the height of weirdness that their most recent full-length, Nothing Here Seems Strange, which is a bona-fide masterpiece, didn’t make the Houston Press Music Awards “Album of […]

  6. SPACE CITY ROCK » Yr. Weekend, Pt. 3: Buxton + Frontier Ruckus + Matt the Electrician + Kerry Melonson + More on October 21st, 2012 at 3:23 pm

    […] up from the bayous and chemical smog of La Porte, TX. Check out this year’s stellar, stunning Nothing Here Seems Strange if you don’t believe me. They’re awesome, […]

  7. SPACE CITY ROCK » Yr. (Late) Weekend, Pt. 1: Buxton + Badass Weekend III + Sing Your Life Showcase + Days N’ Daze + More on February 27th, 2015 at 9:14 pm

    […] me, it’s a gem of a record. No lie. I think I’m liking it better than 2012’s Nothing Here Seems Strange, and that’s no small thing, because I freaking love/loved that album all on its […]

  8. SPACE CITY ROCK » Let The Bass Drop: Surviving FPSF 2013, Day One on August 6th, 2015 at 5:24 pm

    […] and yelped as the band rumbled through most of the band’s most recent album, 2012’s Nothing Here Seems Strange, nonchalantly throwing out these awesome little gem songs that were halfway between Steve Earle and […]

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