Saturday, January 26, 2008

AM Gold

High Society
(Cheap Lullaby)
The press High Society has garnered makes frequent comparisons to Paul McCartney and Wings, Jackson Browne, and other gentle-touch pop giants from the 1970s – and they’re spot on. This Nashville quartet wears the nostalgia-rich glow of AM-radio pop so well they’re nearly critic-proof. Add to the list some Beach Boys (“Ms. November”), a nod to The Beatles’ “Because” (“Tativille”), and modern day Tin Pan Alley champ Rufus Wainwright.

And though we could go on with the comparisons -- Gerry Rafferty comes to mind as well -- it’s a terrible disservice to the band to reduce them to celebrity math. Album opener “The Country Life” sets the mood well with a two-and-a-half minute tale of city folk loose in the sticks, playing at what everybody wishes life in a rural area was really like. It’s all brisk, clean rhythm guitar, uncomplicated drum and bass rhythms and piano fills that show skill without being showy.

Closer “The Broadway Lights” brings it back to the big city, where dreams don’t necessarily go to die, but neither do they always turn out the way we thought they should. Chief songwriter/singer/guitarist Daniel Tashian sings the bruised and romance-damaged lyrics convincingly. Keyboardist Jason Lehning (who co-wrote this song) uses simple piano fills to color the tune in a way that guitars alone couldn't.

Really, there’s not much else to say aside from the fact that High Society barely crests the 30-minute mark, so keep up the good work fellas. The Silver Seas will either be your new boyfriends, or steal your girlfriend.

Reference materials: Will you like The Silvers Seas? If you like Augie March and Rufus Wainwright, then you probably will.

Bonus fun fact: High Society is technically The Silver Seas' debut. Their previous album, Starry Gazey Pie (a ridiculous title), was recorded under the name The Bees. A British band, also calling themselves The Bees, changed their name to A Band of Bees to avoid confusion. Then the U.S. Bees became The Silver Seas. So go ahead and call your own band The Bees if you want, because that name is available again.

Monday, January 21, 2008

Monkey's First Post / Leyode review

The Typing Monkey begins this project by looking back to some things from 2007 that we feel deserve attention. Yes, most publications have already done year-end "Best of" lists but never mind that.
These first few entries aren't any kind of meaningless inventory of critical self-touching, but rather an attempt to remember some things from the past year that we wanted to talk about but didn't.

And away we go.


Fascinating Tininess
(Eastern Developments)
Not including the "bonus beats" track, this disc clocks in at nine songs in just over 30 minutes. More musicians are rediscovering the value of brevity in terms of album length, and to those musicians The Typing Monkey says: Don't think we haven't noticed.

Yusuke Hama (samples and beats) and Laurel Wells (singing) -- the primary duo comprising Leyode -- make beautifully psychedelic hip-hop. Hama's muffled beats shuffle in the background, a canny recreation of Ringo Starr's soft attack during the twilight of The Beatles' career.

The tracks constantly collapse and splinter apart and, as with "Dominique", sometimes stop altogether as if the music got distracted and left a conversational opening for a new idea to cut in. Wells' voice frequently becomes another instrument in Hama's hands. Though there are glimpses of intelligible lyrics, she's just as effective delivering melodic sighs and double-tracked "oohs" and "ahs."

Instrumentally, Hama favors wheezy keyboards and effective guest appearances from a wobbly ascending trumpet ("Irene"), a cello that announces the only significant drum break ("Clementine"), and a few guitar plucks here and there. Indentifying which parts are sampled and which are not is difficult, and that's a plus.

Fascinating Tininess stumbles once with "Hassami + Savath y Savalas." A collaboration with Scott Herren (aka Prefuse 73/Savath & Savalas and the cofounder of the Eastern Developments label), it's the most traditional "song" here but sounds unremarkable in contrast to the hazy shine of the rest. And the previously mentioned bonus beats, officially titled "Eilene (Leb-Leze Bonus Beats)" feels tacked on because it probably was.

Otherwise, Leyode plies the listener with woozy confections as oddly enticing as pillow mints.

Reference materials: Leyode will appeal to fans of Daedalus and Koushik