Pleasant Grove (Dallas, Austin): Two months ago, the guys at dconstruction.org sat me down to chat about local music, and the resulting episode was mostly optimistic. I brought a lot of great, promising music to the show from WoSF performers such as Baboon and the Theater Fire, and there wasn't too much pissing on bands or the state of local music. The topics were cheery with one exception, of course...Pleasant Grove.
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For the past few years, the band has been the ultimate source of local-music blue-ball blues, delivering great concerts but never converting those to a grand nationwide tour or a masterful CD that might finally convince the rest of the country what a great songwriting duo we have in Marcus Striplin and Bret Egner. Their latest record (full-length? EP?) has languished for more than a year in recording limbo, and the only hints we have to the project's progress are clips on their MySpace site that sound pretty damn good...but, again, not as good as in concert. Those are from the old recording sessions, though, so who knows if they've been re-recorded, souped up, changed, destroyed in the fire, whatever. Previous efforts have been addled in heartbreak; Auscultation of the Heart is still the most gorgeous local album of the 2000s, but it didn't get too far past its European-only release, and The Art of Leaving was a weird, schizophrenic disc that combined Auscultation's best with brand-new songs that didn't fit the old mood; as a result, it didn't get much nationwide attention. Will the quartet ever rise up to its potential with a perfect album, a perfect distribution deal and a perfect shot at the indie stardom they have deserved for close to a decade? Nobody knows. But at least we have another great PG gig to look forward to on Saturday (or Friday at Barley House if you're impatient), full of Striplin and Egner's striking voices, haunting arrangements and inimitable perspectives on what Texas really sounds like. Just wear protection, folks, and you'll be fine. -Sam Machkovech