CoMusic Review: Cicada Summer

2011 in Columbia, Missouri will forever bee known as the “Summer of Cicadas.” They  rose from the ground to live, copulate, and make a lot of noise before dying. It will be another 13 (or 17) years until they do it all over when their offspring return from the earth to do it all again.

A motley crew of Columbia and St. Louis musicians collaborated on a collection of songs to commemorate the event. On Cicada Summer, music in the forms of freak folk, hip-hop, techno, joke metal, and some stuff in between all make an effort to tell 17 stories of 2011′s edition of Middle Missouri cicadas.

What follows is a rundown of the tracks. If it sounds interesting to you, check out their Bandcamp site and buy yourself a copy. You can name your price. I paid $5 at the With Heart Handmade Market, but that was a bargain.

1. Claque – “Summer Song”
A nice echo-y, Coctails-esqe groove backs Ian Curtis vocals to describe cicadas as they anticipate their summer of fun.

2.J-Tran – “13 Year Itch”
From what I understand, this particular group of cicadas waited 13 years to share their song, a song you hear from the beginning of J-Tran’s track. Then, over a hypnotic chorus and tinny beats, one hears the rap of the cicada, telling their story with a nerdy flow that’s easy to imagine playing all summer long.

3. nerdcamp 2K eleven – “PSD (Piercing Siren of Death)”
A cappella harmonizing, rounds, vocal percussion, and hand claps are pieced together to create the shortest and possibly most charming track of the collection. Piercing siren of death? Hardly.

4. poopdeth – “sSSs”
The cicada hum is more of a hard “s” sound than it is that of a “z.” A sample of cicadas loops throughout this acoustic  to brings to mind Lou Barlow in his most lo-fi, Sebodohian moments. Despite that aesthetic, there are no words, just humming along with the mighty cicada.

5. Dee Bird – “Another State”
This is maybe my favorite song of the summer, Missourian or otherwise. A love goes away for the summer. Tornadoes and dying cicadas just make that love miss the one she’s left behind. This is a perfect summer love song.

6. Butterflies – “Yummy! Pass the Sprinkles…”
A certain ice cream parlor in CoMo opted to make some cicada ice cream. The first batch went incredibly fast and soon all the major media outlets came calling. The owner of said parlor decided that maybe calling the health department would be a good idea. That first batch also became the last batch. Butterflies documents the story.

7. Nick Browned – “Still in Love in 2024″
What about the cicadas in 13 years from now? Will they still love each other the way this year’s swarm did?Electronic soundscapes with a buzz that is all cicada characterizes this track.

8. Abstraked & Mantra – “Summer for Cicadaz”
Old-school beats and rhymes flow telling the 2011 cicada story at a breakneck pace. Layered and gone before you know it, much like those fucking cicadas.

9. Lizzie Wright Super Space Ship – “The Great Southern Brood”
Sampled Cicadas provide the background as Lizzie Wright forces a melody that has been running through my head ever since. An urgency gets down to the science of the cicadas’ cycle, before breaking down into a sing along on your back porch. The lament of waiting 13 years to hear that song is felt and lingers.

10. TheFarthest Forests – “When the Peepers Sing”
It’s amazing how many nice, sleepy love songs can be written about a bug that rears its horrifying song every 13 or so years. The melody recalls a slowed-down Sam Cooke classic quite well.

11. Robby Jones – “Oh, I’m a Cicada”
Every campfire needs this song.

12. Swarm – “Swarm”
There’s nothing like a joke-metal song to capture the true essence of  standing under a sycamore when the cicadas were at their peak buzziness.

13. Cat Drugs – “Haiku”
For the haiku obsessed.

14. Fine Peduncle – “Magicicada”
Fine Peduncle smartly uses cicada samples to create an even smarter track about a sect of cicadas who are on the 17-year cycle. “Magicicada” is reminiscent of Now, It’s Overhead, a Saddle Creek band who made noisy, fast electronica that rocked harder than most.

15. Sleep In Sundays – “In The Water”
Another cicada0-infested track backs whispery vocals and acoustic guitar. Like many of the tracks on this comp, “In the Water” captures the feeling of any summer in a sleepy college town, cicadas or not. Think Iron & Wine with more Beatles and less Eagles.

16. Family Psychic – “Thirteen Years”
Ambient noises, tweets and twitters of what I assume is some rather manipulated cicadas humming – These are the characteristics of an instrumental track that  would fit in well at the moment right before terror twilight when the cicadas are at their most menacing.

17. Chillysox – “Why Do You Keep Me Up At Night”
I was out of town at the height of the cicada cycle, but I remember reading how annoying the cicadas became, often making it impossible to sleep or be heard. Still, the oppressive Missouri heat makes it hard to lift a finger to do anything about it.

For a last-second project of local bands writing and recording songs about an insect that only comes around every 13 years, this is a pretty impressive compilation. Regardless of context, this would be an impressive compilation. There’s variety, but the quality is pretty obvious from the first track on. I would recommend this to anyone who wants a document to remember the cicada summer in Middle Missouri, but I’d also recommend this compilation for anyone who loves great music.

Before all the cicadas die, buy a copy at Bandcamp and pay them the appropriate price: between $13 and $17 should be about right.

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