Everything comes in threes, except, you know, when it doesn't.
This weekend, for instance, you can catch three different local CD release shows. Or at least you could, if you had the ability to be in more than one place at the same time.
On Friday, Bullhead*ded will celebrate the long-awaited release of its debut CD at the Black Sheep, while the following evening, Burn the Maps and Changing Colors are doing their own album release shows at Smokebrush and the Loft, respectively.
At this stage of the game, I'm guessing there aren't too many local music fans who haven't seen or at least heard of Bullhead*ded. The group came into being back in 2010 with the merger of Colorado Springs hip-hop duos Made Up Minds (aka Nato and Zetfree) and Too Tone Taurus (J.P.S. and Che Bong, who was later the subject of an Indy cover story when his own debut album came out). Since then, the four emcees have played up and down the Front Range relentlessly, their hyperkinetic gigs showcasing four larger-than-life personalities, each with distinctive but complementary lyrical flows.
As entertaining as Bullhead*ded live shows are, 4Play adds new dimensions to the group's sound. Blame that in large part on the skills of producer/emcee Nato, who layers the group's vocals, both spoken and sung, over seamlessly integrated beats and an array of samples ranging from David Bowie's "Ashes to Ashes" to Dr. John's "What Goes Around Comes Around."
Then on Saturday, things get a little complicated, with two of the town's best acoustically inclined acts each headlining their own CD release gigs. As on their 2011 release Terra Incognita, Burn the Maps' Take Stars album showcases pleasing harmonies and skillful songwriting that call to mind artists like Fairport Convention and the Swell Season.
And while Burn the Maps serenades Smokebrush, Changing Colors will be doing the same at the Loft. On sophomore album Joan & the King, main man Conor Bourgal's singing and songwriting still convey an achingly poetic intimacy, but this time with less sparse arrangements. "True Love Knows" is particularly powerful, its haunting melody underscored by Anti- Records artist Jolie Holland's ethereal violin and harmonies as well as the distant thunder of Mark Anderson's drums. Anderson's Paper Bird bandmate Macon Terry also makes an appearance, as do Conor's twin brother Ian Bourgal and about a dozen of their other Blank Tape label-mates.
Although Changing Colors' debut album, Ghost of Red Mountain, came out in 2010, sessions for Joan & the King didn't get started until a year ago. "I spent some of the last three years trying to figure out what I was doing," explains Bourgal, who'd previously played bass in the band Pale Room. "When my old band broke up, I sold my bass and made a rule that my new project would have no bass and no drums."
The singer-songwriter wistfully adds that, at the time, he'd been entertaining the idea of "some cataclysmic event" wiping out America's power grid, and figured amps and synths wouldn't be real useful after that.
"On this one, the songs needed to be bigger, but they can still hold up when we're passing guitars around at the Helm, or when the shit hits the fans and we're living in Cormac McCarthy's The Road."
While the first album wound up getting Bourgal pegged as an indie-folk artist, he's kind of hoping this one will result in less typecasting. "I love folk music, but I don't feel like that's what I do," he says. "'This Land Is Your Land' is a folk song. 'The Internationale' is a folk song. I've talked to people who call Grizzly Bear a folk band. I don't get it."
Of course, that label's bound to persist to some extent, given the musician's attraction to, as he puts it, the "devastating and depressing yet somehow life-affirming" songs of Leonard Cohen and Vic Chesnutt (as well as the work of less overtly bleak artists like Vashti Bunyan and Joanna Newsom).
As for the album title, he credits it to reading Mark Twain's Personal Recollections of Joan of Arc.
"His Joan is so amazing," says Bourgal. "It would be hard to believe if I didn't really know people who are that amazing, but I do. So it's not exactly about Joan of Arc, but it is inspired by her."
While there's no title track, the musician believes the droney electric guitar closer "Courage," which he came up with while spending a few weeks in a Zen monastery, conveys that spirit.
"That's Joan of Arc's song," he says. "They are all Joan of Arc's songs. Except the ones that are not."