Finding an infinitely talented and unique band like Rubblebucket (also known as Rubblebucket Orchestra) that is still approachable gives me hope for popular music and where it could be heading. By no means am I implying that all pop acts are talentless musicians without any creativity in their music, but to me, much of the music that we consider “pop” comes out sounding similar. Rubblebucket combines eons of talent with creativity and a dash of pop to catch the ear of listeners with many different tastes.
Listening to Rubblebucket, it’s easy to tell this band has ultra-eccentric and eclectic influences. The band draws inspiration from afro-beat-influenced dance music, retro funk James Brown guitar and pop-style vocals and harmonies, mixing them with possibly one of the tightest and in-tune horn sections one could find.
Rubblebucket’s 2009 self-titled album is most likely my favorite, as it stays most true to the band’s world music influences and funk. Synth-leads, off-beat time signatures and syncopated African gourd instrumentals all meld together on various tracks to constantly keep the music fresh and challenge the listener’s understanding of music.
If you’re more interested in lyricism, you could not do much better than listen as co-songwriter Kalmia Traver’s poetic lyrics flit in and out of coordinated and ever-changing horn lines. It’s refreshing to hear Traver – a super gifted songwriter – sing of love, misunderstanding and freedom in a way that’s not cliché or even easily interpreted. Even if the lyrics don’t catch your ear, I’m sure her soulful, spirited voice will.
If this album isn’t quite catchy enough, take a listen to 2011’s Omega La La or the band’s newest EP Save Charlie, as the band has been leaning toward an even more approachable and “pop friendly” sound.
Although I think Rubblebucket is a band that could be appreciated by all, the group is definitely “musician’s musicians.” If you have any musical background at all, I challenge you to find at least three different beats in “November” from Rubblebucket or figure out what time signature the original riff in the 10th track “Maya” is in.
The quality of the album doesn’t even convey how great the band is live, and if you have a chance to catch a concert – which you will, because the band often plays in Rochester and Syracuse – I advise you do. In live performance, you can really experience the band’s infectious energy and showmanship. Whether the members are parading around the crowd with giant art school-made robots or bringing a technicolor gym class parachute into the crowd, Rubblebucket creates an upbeat and exuberant atmosphere. And hey, if somehow none of these things appeal to you, you just might enjoy some of their sweet coordinated dance moves.