CD Reviews

THE ARMOIRES: Zibaldone

Politicians and professional athletes enjoy using the term “lucky town” toward a city that has proven fortuitous in the past. Musicians are keen on their memorable locations as well. Take Rex Broome and Christina Bulbenko of the Armoires, a Burbank-based group that continues to find connectivity with our city, 130 miles to the south.

The mutual love affair began in 2015, when the then newly formed group played the International Pop Overthrow Festival at La Mesa’s Chico Club. In a 2016 Troubadour article, Broome recalled the night: “We ended up as the only out-of-town band to play (IPO-San Diego) in 2015, which lent us somewhat of an undeserved air of celebrity as we pulled into the Chico Club to take in the first night of the fest, when we weren’t even playing… we were so grateful to be there, eager to hear a night of power pop, in no way expecting the warm welcome we received. It’s falling off a log for us to stay for a whole night of great music, but we hadn’t expected all of the attention we received, from so many people whose performances had bowled us over and accepted us at face value as a real band.”

Not only are they a real band but they now have their own record label. Big Stir Records is home to The Armoires and other artists brought together by songwriting craft and melodic sounds. Name the format—CD, EP, actual vinyl, various artists compilations—Big Stir is at the top of the game. There’s also an entertaining fanzine on the latest adventures of the Armoires and the other label artists. The Armoires’ second album, Zibaldone, shows a growth in confidence and a band performing with swagger and muscle, no doubt a reaction enhanced by a gritty motorway tour of club dates in the United Kingdom. Yes Virginia, they came back to California a real band. Contributing to the Armoires’ musical sound paintings on canvas are group members Larysa Bulbenko (Christina’s daughter) on viola and vocals, Clifford Ulrich (bass and vocals), and Derek Hanna (drums).

“Appalachukrainia” is a track that succeeds on two levels. The title refers to the geographic/ethnic combination of Rex and Christina’s background: Broome hails from West Virginia and Bulbenko is first generation Ukrainian-American from Detroit. Lyrically, the song has Rex and Christina name dropping episodes from their UK tour, from waking up to Italian food in London to having one of their West Coast songs aired on Scottish radio. Chico Club memories come to light in “Alesandra 619,” an ode to Christina’s niece who resides in that area code.

An important component to the Amoires and the Big Star label are the active touring dates calendar. After being on hiatus, Big Stir will be returning to San Diego in a once-a-month gathering at Tio Leo’s in the Morena District. The lineup will feature San Diego groups joined by a band from another U.S. city or other country. Festival dates will be appearing in future editions of the Troubadour. Visit the Big Stir Records catalog at www.bigstirrecords.com/home

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