It’s finally summer! Less rain, more heat, bug bites. That means it’s time for rock and electronica. Here’s a short mixtape about it.
Some Summers’ Sum
1. “Back to the Way I Was” – Emily Bell. Vintage sass with soulful class. You rock that, Ms. Bell. You rock that.
2. “Plains” – Vundabar. Fans of The Who will find themselves inextricably drawn to the rhythmic attack and the wiry guitar melodies in this rock track.
3. “Back to Life” – Dresses. Purevolume is still a thing? Welcome back, I suppose. I’m just glad they’re bringing us this perky little acoustic-pop gem, somewhere between The Weepies and Chairlift.
4. “I Heard a Rumour” – Annette Gil. Because we can always use more synth-pop with great melodies in the world.
5. “Ghost Ditch” – Vial of Sound. When is the best time to drive on an urban highway? At 3 a.m. while you’re blasting this synth-tastic creation.
APL‘s Ancient Tunes requires an operational definition of “ancient.” If “ancient” is first century hymns, we’re not exactly there. If it’s late ’70s/ early ’80s radio, then this album is titled perfectly. Ancient Sounds sounds as if Adam Lindquist (who is APL) ate a radio set to an “oldies” station and then spit out thirteen tunes in response to the indigestion.
Not to suggest that these are repulsive or heartburn-inducing, as they’re not. But there is a direct line between the iconic sounds of Queen/The Who/Beach Boys/Elton John/Leonard Cohen and APL. These songs would have no basis if not for those forebears. But this is no pastiche. Lindquist filters the sounds through a distinctly modern tonal idiom: the angular, manic snarkiness of Say Anything-style punk. It’s present predominantly in the vocals, but it sneaks into the music a bit as well.
Add up all those pieces in your head and try to imagine it. Difficult, right? Well, it’s a bit challenging for Lindquist to synthesize into a cohesive whole, too. He jerks back and forth between styles, almost as if he were changing the dial on a radio. “Blistered Fingers” features blistering organ playing reminescent of ’70s rock; the tune butts up against “An Ancient Tune (How to Rip Off Leonard Cohen With The Best of Them),” which is a glorious acoustic musing on the meaning of “Hallelujah” before it gets bored and goes Joe Walsh pop (it’s as weird as it sounds). Then it goes on for two and half more minutes. It’s a good song, but it’s baffling. It follows zero rules, conventions or considerations. It just is.
That’s the way many of the tunes here are. They’re packed full of good ideas that come up unexpectedly; so unexpectedly, in fact, that they jarred me. I’m all for stops and starts (I knew what math rock was before I knew pop radio existed), but this is just a headscratcher. And at 48 minutes, there is more than enough time for Lindquist to unspool his singular vision (and to keep you puzzled).
There are highlights, though. “Reunion Day” makes the most of Lindquist’s love of odd chord structures and unique instrumentation (accordion/shaker/bgvs, for one section) and pours it into a modern pop idiom. Closer “Tell Me, Are You Pulling Away?” appropriates a Jackson Browne/James Taylor acoustic vibe to ground the gutwrenching vocal/lyrical finale.
The other songs, as I have noted, are a veritable who’s who of musical styles from the late seventies and early eighties, as filtered through a modern lens. Queen’s exuberant, jam-packed pop features prominently at least by comparison, and probably as inspiration.
I would love to hear more from APL. Lindquist seems like the sort who has ambitions so massive that it’s going to take a while before he can wrangle those impulses into their best form. Ancient Tunes is a good release, but it’s not the best he can do. Get in on the ground floor and take the elevator up with his subsequent releases.
Marc with a C writes some amazing lyrics. All of the songs on this CD, with the exception of three written by Chris Zabriskie, were penned by the well-versed Marc Sirdoreus. Although the music left me feeling flat, the lyrics excited me. I would hungrily sit down to read any ranting by Sirdoreus or any book of poetry he may decide to write.
My problem with the music is it is so cliché. I’ve heard these chords before, on every grassy expanse of land on every college campus in the United States of America. The first thing I noticed was perhaps a David Bowie/Beatles/Bob Dylan/Something more recent influence in the music. It is your average acoustic guitar, sometimes accompanied by a little percussion here and there, but not often. The songs are poppy and light; however, they are enjoyable, no doubt. But something is just not there in the music and in his voice. It’s been done. There are slight variations from song to song, but not enough to make me gasp and say “WOW!” In order to really draw a listener in with this type of acoustic guitar, Sirdoreus’ voice needs more girth or something that would make it unique to balance out the averageness of each song.
But keep in mind that not all is lost with this album. “All My Drug Use Is Accidental” pleased me. It really drove home my feeling that this album is worth listening to purely for the lyrical value. “Born Vintage” was notable too, for its music as well as lyrics. A sampling of why I love the lyrics on this album: “You’re not right and we’re not wrong,” as well as “What’s the point of being punk if punk means I belong?” The song “Jessica, I Heard You Like The Who” forced me to fall in love with it. The lyrics are appealing because they touch on familiar subjects, and even thoughts I have had, which I thought no one would ever dare to think.
As is the case with almost every song on Linda Lovelace for President, the album itself starts out strong, and then seems to lose passion and inspiration by the end, musically. The harmonies present in a lot of the tracks are the same in every song; nice, but repetitive. The music is one-dimensional, but the feeling I get from listening to his words, the sense of his wit and the humor that comes across in the lyrics really stand out.
You know what, Marc with a C? Regardless of how I feel about the college campus guitar, I’m putting you on my iPod. Because I enjoyed what you have to say just enough to play Linda Lovelace for President next time I am road tripping to wherever.