MUSIC REVIEWS: Skeletonbreath, Silversun Pickups, Peter Bjorn and John, The Love Language, Tartufi
Be very careful you are not eating, operating heavy machinery or engaging in foreplay when listening to Skeletonbreath’s Eagle’s Nest, Devil’s Cave. This 10 song CD is about as blistering wacky fun as you’re gonna have with your clothes on.
I’m not sure how to describe the bashing, violin-led madness of opener “Dick Tracy.” Think Kansas meets Kurt Weil, plus the Sex Pistols! It’s big staccato-ness with an almost-country thang on “Dylan Fisher” with Andrew Platt’s bass playing showcased, plus a wacky Morse-code like ending that I can’t even get my mind around. Are we off to some sort of Klezmer-like journey in “Machinists”? I found myself yelling like Heston in Planet of The Apes ‘It’s a madhouse, a madhouse’.
“Taxidermist Convention” is as fast-paced as you’d expect a taxidermist convention to be. Robert Pycior plays the F out of the electric violin, Crockett Doob the same out of a set of frantic bashing drums, where things never keep to a normal time (this guy is blistering good!) and of course Platt is too good for his own good.
“Skeletonbreath” (the song) is all the dark drama. Platt’s all over “The Combustible Man” and from sweet to nasty on “Texarcana,” probably the best tune here, starting restrained then running full speed God knows where. And then we are off to China complete with chimes and fuzzed bass groove, keys on the ending tune “Silk City.”
Pick up Skeletonbreath’s-Eagle’s Nest, Devil’s Cave if you dare.
Do you love the nineties? Are Siamese Dream and Mellon Collie and the Infinite Sadness given lofty positions in your personal musical canon? Have you recently considered bailing on Billy Corgan for bad choices both personal and musical? (C’mon, Tila Tequila? Really?) Have you been wondering where to go for fuzzy alt-rock rife with navel-gazing and high-pitched male vocals? Look no further than Silversun Pickups.
Silversun Pickups craft lush, beautifully fuzzy soundscapes that are deeply beholden to Billy Corgan’s better years. Brian Aubert (Corgan bonus points: he’s balding) sings, if anything like a more feminine Corgan.
The band’s’ sophomore effort, Swoon, is an exquisitely pieced-together work of craftsmanship, if not quite the revelatory wonder that debut Carnavas was. Especially worthy of note are lead single “Panic Switch” and album closer “Surrounded (or Spiraling).”
Swoon is a delightful homage to not only the alt-rock of the Smashing Pumpkins but also the fuzzy, ear-bleeding splendor of My Bloody Valentine. Well worth the listen.
From the first beat to the last handclap, one unarguable fact becomes very clear; this is not the same folk rock sound from this one time darling of indie rock. The electronic inflected drum machine album presents a new side of a band seemingly attempting reinvention and perhaps relevance.
Still, the band bounces between alternate tempos on the dozen tracks on Living Thing. Each song seems to stand apart from those around it, more often than not, containing an extended intro to each song that injected a central sonic element the rest of the track is built around; be it a certain phrase or set of oddly instrumentalized beats.
Honestly, the tracks are hit and miss; the aural pot luck providing at least the possibility of enjoyment in one of it’s offerings to listeners. I believe each take turn at vocals, giving each track it’s own tone. The guitar licks across the compositions, repetitive bass and drums giving some tracks a hypnotic feel as vocals lead the dance, sparring with soloist guitar.
I was especially struck by the nervous energy, reminiscent of 80s rock, on the title track “Living Thing.” Still, only once did a song really excite me, grabbing my attention from the beginning, locking it down until the last groove. “It Don’t Move Me” is a sound that PB&J may wish to focus on more; the track having that infectious summery dancing vibe, just like their first hit did in the summer of 06.
At the end of the day, the album is kooky fun, but I couldn’t stand a good half of it.
The Love Language’s lo-fi sound evokes so much immediate sentimentality that listening to the self-titled debut is like being able to reminisce about your favorite summer as it’s happening. Opening track “Two Rabbits” features the primarily one-man-band of Stuart McLamb crooning over slow old-timey piano, and is followed-up by “Lalita,” a sparkling tune so infectious it seems impossible to imagine resisting its urgently reflective vocals, rollicking percussion, and ringing guitar lines.
To further single out individual cuts on this album would be dismissive of those not mentioned, and ultimately redundant because every song on this album deserves recognition in its own right; each is a fully realized shade of the same fuzz-poppy, indie rock and roll palette. However, the bright sheen on this record is slicking over some real, raw emotion, generated by the breakup of a whirlwind relationship. Written and recorded in the aftermath, this album brings a light to the darkness of heartbreak: The Love Language is a put-on-repeat-all-summer, never-skip-ahead album that showcases an incredible talent in McLamb, and inspires a desperate impatience for a follow-up to this set of bedroom masterpieces.
If Tartufi were to be measured in a meal, it would be a buffet. Their latest record is a mysterious soulful helping of enchanting songs that connect like a spiritual movement, the tracks move beyond mere sound. Droning guitars, crashing and at times jagged drums, cascading and harmonious vocals switch between dirge and joy and everything in between to a sort of pouty rock flair of antagonizing lyrics that are blanketed and heavy. Most songs go way beyond the three minute mark. An earful of the loudest to softest abduction attempt is Nests of Waves and Wire. Tunes stretch lavishly like the most glorious of landscapes. Every instrument has been meticulously placed to deliver a piece of a bigger ethereal collective. Close comparisons would be in the same rich category as Tortoise, Pell Mell or Seely. Orchestral, poetically blissful with a perfect balance of dark grunge lulls and blustery anthems, melodies attach themselves to any atmospheric temperature. “Hole or Space” moves along with such a beautiful softness but like most Tartufi songs on this record, it breaks way to an agitated churning that explodes into an almost robotic funk piece then quickly disseminates in a riot-core fury. This San Francisco twosome is made up of Lynne Angel and Brian Gorman and their musical wonderment is felt to the very core.