John Hodgman isn’t primarily a musician, although he did introduce They Might Be Giants on their tour dates for a while. Still, I thought his new paperback edition of That Is All was pretty funny, so I reviewed it here. [Editor’s note: this review is no longer online.]
1. “Love You the Most” – The Shams. A timeless recipe: Country music + Rock’n’roll + touring = Ramblin’ Southern rock.
2. “The Road” – Nicolette Good. Evocative vocals, intriguing lyrics, and timeless instrumentation: This is the way I imagine country music.
3. “Patterns” – Autumn Owls. Crunchy, angular indie-rock reminiscent of Radiohead’s more personable moments and Menomena’s intensely structured early work.
You know what happened 20 years ago? The ’90s. Cub Scouts thinks that means nostalgia for the decade is primed to show up right about now:
“Adventuresome,” “experimental” and “quirky” are not the usual terms I append to “pop-rock,” but Lindby‘s Erikson necessitates it. How else to describe an album that celebrates six different people (two fictional) named Erikson in songs that are re-situations of the same melody? How about a band that sings an aggressive ska tune named “King of Condiments”? Lindby makes stream-of-consciousness pop music that includes jazzy asides, choral movements, funky rhythms, squelching synths, soulful belting, group shouts and more; it’s a head-spinning, smile-inducing whirlwind. I could go on listing things that are in this album, but it would get tedious for you: just know that there’s a ton happening. (One more: pseudo-Asian tune about a boxer!) The album isn’t as out-there as a Half-Handed Cloud record, but they’re approaching that level of eclecticism, with similar fantastical results. If you’re into something a little left of center but still hummable, this one’s for you.
Songwriters Josh Mordecai and Declan Ryan each contributed four tunes to create The Sad Bastards split EP. The title is indicative of the content, but not in the way you’d expect: the wry self-awareness of the title carries over to the lyrics more than the emotion they namecheck. In fact, the chorus of Mordecai’s “Repeat After Me” ends with “never let the sadness settle in your bones”; hardly a downer sentiment. Former IC writer Ryan’s “Maybe I’ll Go to Gainesville And Start a Band” shows him self-aware enough to realize that moving to another place may not be the solution to the problem anyway. (He decides to stay in the same city he started the song in.)
And the self-aware, DIY, populist, punk-tradition lyrics are the main draw here, as neither artist chooses to feature perfect performances in the recordings. Ryan pushes his baritone voice too hard in places, and Mordecai’s hyperactive strums and high voice evoke early Mountain Goats (which could mean you’re about to buy this or you’re about to flee). Instead, their performances substitute a bracing vigor and engaging enthusiasm for studio-made, pristine sounds. It’s self-awareness as celebration: Mordecai sings jubilantly in “Don’t Cut Yr Hair,” “And everything I’d want to say’s been said much better anyway / by guys who could write and sing and actually play.” But you know what? Singing your own song because you can is still cool. The world is better for it. If you’re into passionate, enthusiastic singer/songwriters in the DIY folk-punk tradition, check out The Sad Bastards EP.
Fun, upbeat piano pop that has room to grow on the serious side.
One of the things that makes Weezer fantastic in my mind is the ability to cover fun and serious material with equal ease. The Blue Album is a masterpiece of goofy, nerdy passions – one that has been celebrated in garages by outsider high school students since its creation. Its follow-up, Pinkerton, is a dark and brooding masterpiece of angst, celebrated just as passionately but by less people. It’s just not the same Weezer from The Blue Album, say some. And they’re right: it’s not. But the ability to be both things effectively is what endears me to the band.
Lindby is a goofy piano-pop band. They excel at creating jubilant, giddy pieces of upbeat piano tomfoolery. Their serious stuff meets a little bit of a roadblock; they can’t transfer the saccharine honesty over to serious honesty.
Lindby’s formula is not complicated. They start with a simple piano line, whether it be chords or just a melody. Then they throw a drumbeat at it, then some accompanying guitar and bass. The piano, however simple, forms the basis of the songs. This isn’t true in every case, but it is the modus operandi most often employed. This is most easily shown in “Across the Blue,” which has a whimsical brass section opening the song along with piano. It bounces, quirks and floats its way on down the road. It’s completely enjoyable.
Part of their goofy character lies in the fact that their upbeat works are very bouncy. This is partly attributed to the fact that the band likes the up/down feel to their songs; another part of it is that their transitions are not very smooth. The band is good at its individual parts, but they don’t lock in together very well. There’s a lot of space in Lindby’s sound, and it’s hard to tell if it’s intentional or due to a cap on the capabilities of the band.
All of these thoughts come to their head in their best song, “Music Box.” The intro is a musicbox, then a piano. It’s a more serious song, but it’s hard to get the impression that it’s a serious song – the piano line is very upbeat. The drums and the vocal line inform us that it’s more serious, but it’s still a difficult sell. The timbre of the vocals doesn’t help either – used to being fast and hectic, they sound out of place trying to fit into a calmer setting. It just doesn’t fit with the ear until the chorus, when the song falls into place. The chorus is a fantastic chorus, and I can see that with some tweaks and a lot more practice, this song could be an enormous radio hit. It has some stellar hooks and the x factor that bands try so hard for in choruses.
Lindby is not a bad band. They have an expertise in goofy tunes, and they’re trying to branch out into more serious work. They just need to work on smoothing out the rough edges of their bouncy pop into smoother calm songs.
– Stephen Carradini
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.