Four years into a ten-albums-in-ten-years vow, Missoula band Secret Powers is still making good on its pledge – and making more good music in the process. Just a few weeks ago, the band’s third album, “Lies and Fairy Tales,” was named the best power-pop album of 2010, by the Absolute Power Pop blog.
Tonight, the five-piece outfit (featuring Shmed Maynes on keyboards, John Fleming on bass, Dan Strachan on drums, and Ryan Farley and new member John Brownell on guitar) will release its fourth full-length record, “What Every Rose-Grower Should Know,” which reinforces the band’s reign as one of the country’s tightest and most adventurous power-pop outfits.
“We are the Rose Society, committed to the excellence of cultivation,” Maynes sings in his now-familiar rasp on the album’s title track. He then goes on to catalogue the range of colors and types of bushes that “every rose grower should know,” as the band chimes behind him in multi-part, pulsating vocal harmonies and cascading instrumental flourishes. It’s a weird song that reflects the peculiar obsessions that color Maynes’ worldview.
His primary obsession, of course, is making music – and in particular, music that echoes his heroes, among them the Electric Light Orchestra, the Beach Boys, and the Beatles. This time around, those influences aren’t quite as pervasively present as on previous records. But then again, maybe Maynes got them out of his system early, via the album’s opening track, “Generation Ship” – a heavily-textured song that Maynes says was his “most direct effort ever to just go ahead and make an ELO song.”
It’s also a song that reflects another of Maynes’ fascinations: What would happen if our sun went dark, and humans had to move to a different solar system?
“They say it would take 600 generations to get there – which is how long it took humans to develop language, to give you some perspective,” Maynes explains. “So this is like our theme song for a TV show that doesn’t exist.”
The album is rounded out by several songs written by former guitarist Troy Warling, who left the band following the recording project. Maynes said that Warling’s departure will necessarily change the band’s sound, particularly given that his replacement, Brownell, is well-known in local musical circles as the former lead guitarist/singer/songwriter for local legends the Oblio Joes.
“It’s a bummer to lose Troy, because he did such great stuff in the band,” said Maynes, “but I think it’ll mean that this next album with Brownell will really start to go in new directions.”
Secret Powers will release its album at the shared-bill concert with Airstream Safari, tonight at the Top Hat.