Friday, February 16, 2007

Indie Roundup

Panda Bear – Person Pitch

My insightful but historically challenged friend Jeremy tells me that Person Pitch sounds like The Beach Boys on LSD, which is an accurate enough assessment on one hand, but which ignores the fact that Brian Wilson spent years playing in the sandbox for a reason.

Mr. Bear (real name Noah Lennox) is a member of acid-folk experimentalists The Animal Collective (naturally), and his second solo album is far removed from both his band’s catalogue and his lovely but downbeat solo debut Young Prayer. Here Lennox drags the Beach Boys chorales kicking and screaming through an acid house/early Pink Floyd blender. The resulting mashup of new millennium beats and sixties flower power is sometimes too schizophrenic for its own good. But when it works, as it does on the spectacular 13-minute aural collage “Bros,” it reminds me of Wilson’s magnificent pastiche Smile. Lennox piles multi-tracked harmonies atop clattering drums, fuzzed out bass, spooky sound effects, and enough backward-masked tape loops to warrant full demonic condemnation from the conservative evangelists of America. The rest of you will probably find it delightfully, lysergically lovely.

Frog Eyes – Tears of the Valedictorian

You should care about Victoria B.C.’s Frog Eyes for one reason: the utterly strange songs and weirdly compelling vocals of Carey Mercer. Mercer’s ocular cohorts whip up a sonic wall of skittering electric guitars, circus calliope, and pounding piano. The music is bracing enough; rock ‘n roll as refracted in the Tom Waits funhouse mirror. But it’s Mercer and his paranoid proclamations, delivered in a declamatory, querulous yelp, that really command the attention. There’s a bit of David Bowie there, a bit of Bowie acolyte and Destroyer/New Pornographer Dan Bejar, and more than a touch of madness:

Reform your countryside! Reform your shafted side!
Konstantine: you are the beggar of the blasted blue light
Oh (rich) Richie’s in the back
He ain’t going to like it when you go
And Howard sells the power to the power-hungry proles,
Incriminating photo shoots that show you wanting gold

There’s probably medication for this sort of thing, but it’s oddly convincing just the same. Even more strangely impressive is the nine-minute “Bushels,” which finds Mercer careening off into one of the more damaged falsettos you’ll ever hear, chanting “The wheat’s got to last/London, you’re cold, but the wheat’s got to last.” Easy there, dude. I suspect the wheat will hold out, but damn if it isn’t alarming to consider the possibility that it won’t.

The Narrator – All That to the Wall

There’ll be a new Modest Mouse album any day, but for those of you who can’t wait, there’s the second album from Chicago trio The Narrator. Lead singer/songwriter Sam Axelrod clearly shares the Portland band’s penchant for angular guitar rock and quavering vocals. “Son of the Son of the Kiss of Death,” “SurfJew,” and “Breaking the Turtle” are superb tracks. The only real misstep here is “All the Tired Horses,” a lousy cover of a lousy Bob Dylan song from an album (Self Portrait) that is usually ignored for a reason. Everything else really is good news for people who love Isaac Brock.

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