On their fourth album in four years, Joe Westerlund, Phil Cook and Phil's brother Brad continue to reveal themselves to be students of music.
That's how Eau Claire once knew them.
It's been more than a decade since the three former Wisconsinites were members of the Eau Claire Memorial High School jazz band. Today they live in Raleigh, N.C., and perform as Megafaun, a band that's become a favorite of the national indie rock press. They play at the High Noon Saloon Sept. 29.
Megafaun's self-titled follow-up to 2010's Heretofore is a collection of 15 starkly different tracks that showcase the trio's musical dexterity. It begins with an easygoing, down-tempo jam-rock song ("Real Slow"). Then it gets abstract, juxtaposing drums, piano, guitar, croaking frogs, running water and humming crickets ("These Words").
Following a structured rock song ("Get Right"), Phil Cook's delicate piano chords open the tender "Hope You Know." By song five, Megafaun have meandered away from rock, finding a musical space where jazz meets folk.
The album's best track is "Second Friend," a bright folk-pop love song about weathering change together. The vocal harmonies add to the innocent, happy vibe. The members of Megafaun have learned something about life changes this year. Phil Cook and his wife, Heather, had their first baby in July.
The last uncomplicated song on Megafaun is "Resurrection," with its soaring, rootsy sound and gentle determination.
From there, the album becomes darker and more ambient, especially on the haunting track "Scorned."
The Cook brothers and Westerlund left Eau Claire for Raleigh in 2004. Back then, they were three-fourths of DeYarmond Edison. Rounding out the band was Justin Vernon, now of Bon Iver. Vernon returned to Wisconsin in late 2006. In Raleigh, DeYarmond Edison became Megafaun.
The band's prolific songwriting has matched their extensive touring. Megafaun recently returned from two weeks in Europe. They're currently in the middle of a 16-date U.S. tour.
I'm betting that between shows in Madison and Minneapolis, they'll stop for lunch in Eau Claire.