Ten Cent Days released their first recording June 16, an album titled "Ten Dollar Album." Having followed the evolution of the music on this album by visiting various local venues throughout the past year or two to enjoy the talent of the band's creative director, Caleb Banas, and his longtime friend-jam partner, Lena Yeagle, I thought I was in a reasonable position to make an attempt at reviewing the album, especially after the band had recently requested this through various social media websites.
What is a Ten Cent Days, you may wonder? Ten Cent Days is self-described as a "flea market" of musicians who have an "eclectic style with a dirty old-timey twist" and who share a penchant for Victorian-era inspired garb. Ten Cent Days also is Jason Shuman on percussion; Yeagle on cello, violin and mandolin; Mathias Lovemotor on melodica and guitar; Ian Fink on bass; and songwriter Banas on guitar and a whole lot of singing. They typically perform acoustically, although a small handful of heavier numbers incorporate a little fuzz into the mix. Haunting, dark, desolate, complex, beautiful, joyous ... Ten Cent Days are all of these things and more. Unfortunately, I do not have personal experience with popular bands to compare Ten Cent Days with, so I must do with this incomplete description: while the basic melody of their acoustic-folk music is fundamentally straightforward, the complex layering of instrumentation, lyrics and vocal harmonies creates a rather unique sum that only rarely delves into any kind of conventional rock or pop sensibility.
"Ten Dollar Album" opens with a somber and dark number contemplating the nature of human interaction titled "October," and closes with an irreverent-yet-dark number that bluntly acknowledges the importance of valuing life titled "Country Folk Death Song." Inbetween these bookends, the songs internally transition seamlessly from folk dirges portraying utter dejection into remarkably beautiful proclamations of the rejection of suffering and acceptance. This transmutation is a joy to behold and it is a process that repeats within many of the songs on the album. This is certainly not homogeneous and commoditized modern pop or rock.
Throughout the album, the songs are nearly all a cathartic release of the lyricist's personal turmoil. As with all great art, there is more than enough room for the music, the tone and meaning to be instantly relatable. This is no simple task, considering how intensely personal the moments are that have been condensed and distilled. Combining the relatable lyrics and tone with the band's deft interplay of melody and harmony quickly hooks the listener, allowing one to listen past discomfort until they're faced with the bare and honest truth of the recorded experience.
If you only have a few minutes and need an instantly accessible song? Try "Only in Theory." Appetite whetted and want something more complex to sink your teeth into? Try the slow, melancholy movement of "Black Marbles." Ready for a deep and beautiful musical foray that explores what it means to be human? Put on your listening ears along with the best pair of headphones you can track down, and try "Flowers for Rick."
I'd highly recommend "Ten Dollar Album" to anyone whose taste for music runs deeper than the Top 40. This may not be the most immediately enjoyable record that you will come across this year, as it is quite often very dark and intensely personal ... but after allowing the album a place to live and grow in your heart, you will discover that the songs are timeless and you will soon be coming back for repeated listenings.