There once was a time when the idea of Omaha, Nebraska as a center of interesting musical activity and hip cultural icons was beyond comprehension. Then, the Saddle Creek artist-label compound set up shop, and we were given a bevy of emotive, albeit talented musicians who, over time, saw their audiences grow from lanky college kids in basements to, well, the popular kids in high school. Or at least the semi-popular ones. The football players are still listening to Usher, or whatever’s popular. I’m not sure I know anymore. The point is, Omaha is now seen as a fairly hip city, whereas it was once merely another city in a flat red state and not much more. Just around the corner, however, there seems to be a lovely sound coming from Boonville, Missouri. It’s a city you probably haven’t heard of. Hell, I don’t know where it is. But the city can boast at least one fine indie pop act among its exports: the gloriously weird and beautiful Minus Story.
Some might try to convince you that Minus Story hails from Lawrence, Kansas, a city to which they have strong ties and which has produced more like-minded bands, but they’re actually from the town of 8,500 in the state next door. Somehow, despite being a truly odd band, however, their roots in the country’s center show on their latest recording No Rest For Ghosts. Like a mish-mash of Oklahoma’s Flaming Lips, Nebraska’s Bright Eyes and Kansas’ Ghosty, Minus Story fits right in with the Midwest’s best indie/psych/folk acts. Unlike those bands, however, Minus Story stretches their weird sound over some mighty heroic progressive structures. If the Flaming Lips were a little more into Yes, it might sound something like this.
Driven primary by Jordan Geiger’s high-pitched vocals and ambitious arrangements a la The Decemberists, The Minus Story provide an epic twist on charming indie pop. Opener “I Was Hit” opens with twinkling piano, setting the stage for an indie rock operetta, the kind, I imagine, may have lots of characters, costumes and props, though only imagined ones. “Knocking on Your Head” picks up with a slightly more straightforward sound, though the concept of “straightforward” is relative with a band like this, I suppose. Halfway through fourth song “Hold On,” however, it seems that the album has gone on for quite a while through not many songs, and the mood, throughout, has been one of extremely heightened drama.
Fear not, Minus Story anticipated some restlessness, and picked up the pace with the bouncy, poppy “Little Wet Head.” “Waking Up,” which follows, has an almost sea shanty vibe about it, while “Will I Be Fighting” has a baroque folk sound, not unlike Clem Snide’s low key westerns. And just when it gets a little too ghostly and ethereal, “To the Ones You Haunted” charges in with a solid beat and a sinister, haunting (pun…intended?) waltz.
No Rest For Ghosts will likely take a few listens to get your head around. I’m still not sure if I’ve discovered all of its textures and nuances just yet, but I’m enjoying the journey. Because of this noble and mostly successful experiment, Minus Story are putting their hometown on the map with their delightfully weird and operatic psychedelia. Boonville shall be obscure no more!
Clem Snide – Soft Spot
Elf Power – When the Red King Comes
Ghosty – Grow Up or Sleep In
Jeff Terich is the founder and editor of Treble. He's been writing about music for 20 years and has been published at American Songwriter, Bandcamp Daily, Reverb, Spin, Stereogum, uDiscoverMusic, VinylMePlease and some others that he's forgetting right now. He's still not tired of it.