Katana & Tonic is the new album from rock duo Laura By Spruke, to be released on January 12, 2012. Laura By Spruke hail from Buffalo, NY and is comprised of Bill Boulden and Laura Grace. The album's sound comes by way of mixing of rock and video game music genres. This is not a chip tune record, it's a video game themed punk-techno-rock record.
In a recent interview on The Monday Night Magic Podcast, Boulden stated the album strives to “sing about games in the context of Life, not just a novelty”. They don't waste any time getting to it. The first track, “I Hate”, is about a girl listing frustrations of her life. You'll hear venting over Chrono Trigger endings, love, world tragedies, hangovers and of course lost pokemon cards. Contrary to popular belief, gamers do have more on their minds than the newest DLC or why one system is better than the other.
The album has an overall gritty tone, which I was not expecting. In my experience video-game-inspired music has a clean or crisp sound, whether it's a popular group like Anamaguchi or an unknown artist on 8bc.org. Laura By Spruke are able to go in this direction while maintaining an impressively high level of production. This is no surprise to anyone already familiar with Boulden's work via spruke.net or the hip hop group Tha Gatherin.
It was impossible to listen to Grace's vocals and not be reminded of Karen O from the Yeah Yeah Yeahs. In fact the entire album is quite a cavalcade of inspirations. In Boulden's guitar playing I'm reminded of late 90s Beck. In his production I hear styles common in independent hip hop. And with their track Technologic it's clear they love Daft Punk too!
Katana & Tonic is a concept album broken into Three Acts. The story is one of a bitchy teenage girl who learns some lessons the hard way, and ends up with a new outlook on life. After several listens, Act Two is the strongest. This Act has great dynamic changes during tracks, such as half way through “80 Above or 20 below”, or in subject matter maturity ala “Easy”. Not being a fan of punk music, I see the first Act of the album as the weakest. It is well executed punk music, but compared to the rest of the album the melodies, song structure, and subject matter feel too simple. This flows with the album's theme perfectly, but I found myself skipping the first three tracks more and more on subsequent listens. However, if a cocktail of the Yeah Yeah Yeahs and The Offspring sounds like it might be a nice treat you'll probably really enjoy Act One.
Overall I enjoy this album and would classify it as a “grower”. The more I listen the more I like it. Aside from the obvious video game themes, there are a lot of subtle samples and references to listen for... and everyone knows how much gamers like easter eggs.
The album is available now!