It’s that time of the year again: the end of it. So here’ are my last two 2012 singles mixes before the Best Of lists drop later this month.
1. “Still Analog” – The March Divide. Perky acoustic pop with a snide edge and snapping. Dare you to not smile.
2. “Alright OK” – Ocean Transfer. Reggae, pop-rock and even some funk come together for a fun tune.
3. “Swimsuit” – Cayucas. I’m pretty sure this was written on a surfboard.
4. “Rooftop” – Lady Lamb the Beekeeper. Peppy indie-pop with some folk sensibilities, capped off by a powerful alto vocalist.
5. “Time Keeps Dripping” – Emil Lager. Fans of The Tallest Man on Earth will appreciate the raspy vocals and fingerpicked styles of Lager.
6. “Retaliate” – City Reign. The yearning vocals here are what get me in this acoustic tune.
7. “Land” – Joyce the Librarian. The vocal harmonies, cello work and brass set this stately folk tune apart.
8. “This Love Won’t Break Your Heart” – Annalise Emerick. One of the most beautiful songs I’ve heard all year incorporates “Auld Lang Syne” into its gentle folk arrangement. The build-up to the end of the song is simply heart-pounding.
Moody Rock/Electronica Mix
1. “Each to a Grain” – Light Company. Dreamy post-rock, thumping modern rock, distorted bass and melodic vocals create a unique tune.
2. “The Hunter” – Their Planes Will Block Out the Sun. Tight, dark indie-rock with everything in its right place.
3. “All My People Go (Budo Remix)” – Kris Orlowski and Andrew Joslyn. This highlight track from their recent EP gets a bit of a remix, adding a bit (but not too much) of an electronic edge.
4. “Song for Zula” – Phosphorescent. The lead track off Phosphorescent’s upcoming album ties together strings, beats, and an incredibly emotive vocal performance.
I’ve been listening to Kris Orlowski tinker with his sound for a little over a year. His singer/songwriter tunes fluctuated between detailed, somber pieces and fluffy, Matt Nathanson-style pop songs in the At the Fremont Abbey and Warsaw EPs. Pieces We Are finds him coming into his own by finding a perfect collaborator in composer Andrew Joslyn.
Joslyn’s appearance in the five songs of Pieces We Are doesn’t abolish either side of Orlowski’s songwriting style. Instead, he writes intricate, involved arrangements that accentuate the best parts of Orlowski’s work and strengthen the lesser elements. This is not a “pop songwriter writes string parts” set-up; this is a composer’s work. The results are the best songs I’ve yet heard from Orlowski.
The easiest place to see Joslyn at work is in the plucky (literally) work he assigns the violins at the onset of “In Between Days.” Originally a gleefully upbeat tune by the Cure, it’s the sort of tune that could have come off as pleasant but uneventful in a folky arrangement. Joslyn keeps the instruments of the orchestra interacting with each other in a playful manner, counterpointing Orlowski’s more serious vocal delivery. The violin gets a beautiful solo in the bridge as the song floats to a halt.
“Cables” is another upbeat pop tune that benefits greatly from a perky, horn-heavy arrangement; however, this tune includes a pensive bridge. Orlowski is able to mesh the two parts of his sound more sincerely with the orchestra backing him up, which results in more fully realized songs throughout.
The attention to detail that Joslyn and Orlowski give even the fluffiest of pop tunes transfers to their darker material. “All My People Go” is a powerhouse of a tune, with Joslyn contributing tension and power to Orlowski’s skill at deploying a melodic hook within a melancholy mood. Many “with strings!” albums sound like the arrangement was pasted on afterwards, but Pieces We Are is a true collaboration of composer and songwriter: when the strings drop out for one chorus, it feels similar to when the bass or drums drop out in a punk song. When the players crash back in for a final go at the titular motif, it’s a triumphant, uplifting event.
Kris Orlowski and Andrew Joslyn have created a powerful, fully-realized set of tunes in Pieces We Are. Orlowski’s songwriting has grown to encompass multiple moods in a single song, and Joslyn adds depth to the work with his meticulously crafted orchestral arrangements. Pieces We Are shows off two musicians who are hitting their stride, which makes me excited and hopeful for their future individual and collaborative work. Download “All My People Go” below.
Stephen Carradini and Lisa Whealy write reviews of instrumental, folk, and singer/songwriter music. We write about those trying to make the next step in their careers and established artists.