ARTS

  /  

March 11, 2003

Music: Voices Shortcuts

M. Ward

Transfiguration of Vincent

Merge Records

There's a burning question on your mind. That question is "Do I need another pastoral folk/earthy blues album?" This question, of course, presupposes that you already own some pastoral folk/earthy blues and probably like it, too. Assuming that you're a constituent of this group, then, I suggest that you purchase/illegally acquire this album by M. Ward, whose knack for writing simple, melancholy tunes is truly uncanny.

On this slow, sad album, Ward uses muted violin samples, cricket chirps, and bird warbles, as well as more conventional instrumentation and his own lovely voice to craft beautiful songs that sneak up on you, immersing you before you realize it. Absurd lyrics like "killer whale, please/what do you do when your true love leaves" are so earnestly delivered as to sound not insufferable, but actually moving.

The willfully lo-fi beginning of "Poor Boy, Minor Key" is an excellent entrée into a dirty guitar riff that captures the traditional bluesy theme of being down-and-out at perfect pitch. Elsewhere, the unadorned beauty of "Involuntary" and "Dead Man," the marked absence of effect pedals/Protools wankery allow them to hit with full emotional force.

Transfiguration of Vincent is quiet and subtle enough to be the sort of album that escapes critical attention, but it would be truly unfortunate if anybody who appreciates gentle, lush, nostalgic music like this missed it.

--Yoshi Salaverry

Entrance

The Kingdom of Heaven Must Be Taken by Storm!

Tiger Style Records

"This has potential" is often music journalist speak for "this sucks (but I can't afford to piss off the publicist at MCA)." When it isn't, critics commonly elude the question of what the band at hand could actually do to improve their formula. Here's the part where I stop writing in generalities: Entrance (noun or verb? really makes you think) has a lot of potential, but has yet to release a great album and I can state some definitive points of advice.

Mr Blakeslee, take my (self-important college kid) advice to heart:

1. That instrumental track, "The Night was Dark," was nice. I liked that dissonance, the sense of ludic imbalance.

2. The piano on track four is a bit too slick to accompany your shrill moan for the rest of the song, don't you think?

3. Despite your aesthetic intentions, the album may be a bit too sloppy, like a big lanky man sprawled on a grimy sofa.

4. Your lyrics sound important and interesting...maybe you should make them more intelligible in the future.

5. Your covers of Bob Dylan and Skip James were, for the most part, great. Make sure in the future that your covers don't surpass your own songs. Or else that puts your forebears squarely in the "genius" category and you in the non-genius category.

6. Although your vigorous strumming is exciting at first, more diverse instrumentation might ensure the listener's ongoing attention better.

In closing, allow me to backpedal and say that Entrance may be going somewhere special with his music, but if so, The Kingdom is not the terminus.

--YS

Earlimart

The Avenues EP

Palm Songs

Stabs at immortality with the first track of an EP are usually misguided, and Earlimart's attempt to blast "Color Bars" into the stratosphere with Metallica meets San Francisco Symphony-esque violins and bombastic guitar made me less than enthusiastic for the rest of The Avenues EP. Unfortunately I was to find upon listening to the subsequent tracks that Earlimart never lifted themselves from that self-dug rut.

The second track began promisingly, with distortion reminiscent of "Grandaddy," but the dully-delivered lyrics and a boring denouement killed it.

"Interloper" plodded along, with sundry synth effects and quaint guitar strumming, but was so mediocre that it had me searching for the skip button of my Discman.

The brief untitled track, which integrated bird chirping and a stomping march-like rhythm into its brief duration, was by far the most interesting song, but much too slight to warrant praise for the EP overall.

I just want to tell these people to go back to their day jobs.

--YS