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Granfaloon Bus

The melancholy San Francisco-via-San Diego country-rock ensemble Granfaloon Bus has been flying under the radar for more than a decade, which is fairly remarkable when you consider that during that time the group has opened for Nirvana, been showered with critical accolades, and released seven captivating full-length albums. Remarkable, but not surprising in light of the similar fates of Granfaloon Bus's California Americana brethren, bands like Dieselhed and The Mother Hips. The sad fact is that music this lyrically complex, this downcast, and this folky rarely finds favor with mainstream audiences. The band's music has been described as "slanted folk-pop," an epithet which frontman Felix Costanza has endorsed -- perhaps a bit ironically, but hell, that phrase gets pretty close to their sound, if you emphasize the "folk" part of the equation. Granfaloon Bus give themselves away with their choices of covers, which have included songs by Neil Young and Townes Van Zandt; like those accomplished musicians, Granfaloon Bus puts a premium on storytelling and poetry, while employing a broad range of folk and country influences to create laconic, distinctively American pop songs. Their songs are loose and shambling, utilizing a rich instrumental palette which includes keyboards, piano, violin, pedal steel, trumpet, and trombone, while maintaining a shadowy rural starkness to underscore Costanza's keening vocabulary of out-of-the-way loss, regret, and resignation.

Six Granfaloon Bus albums have failed to make a significant mark on the American independent music consciousness, but with the ever-growing popularity of bands like Bonnie Prince Billy and Sparklehorse, the band has reason to believe that could change with their seventh, the poignant and lovely Exploded View, which features an impressive cast of supporting characters, including Virgil Shaw, William Winant, and members of Fuck, Paula Frazer's band, Dieselhed, Mr. Bungle, Oranger, and more. The album title refers to a schematic drawing which depicts a mechanism's individual parts separately while indicating their relationship to one another, providing a nice metaphor for the way Granfaloon Bus's music constructs its world of alcohol, worn-out cars, and empty nights. Exploded View, according to Costanza an album of drinking songs, features the end-of-the-night boozy melancholy of "The Far from Perfect Cha-Cha" and the impending hangover of "Petty."