Band Name: El Oso
Album Name: Whichever Chapter Covers Now
Best element: Unique take on indie-rock
Label name: Contraphonic (http://www.contraphonic.com)
Band e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
There’s just some voices that can not be silenced. Even after they stop physically coming at you from your speakers, they resonate in the corners of your room, the headspace of your car, the attic of your mind. In a figurative sense, El Oso possesses one of those: a jubilant, joyous, unique indie-rock voice.
In a much more literal sense, vocalist Jim Hanke has the voice I’m describing- a light, soaring, yet highly sincere and gripping voice that glues me to El Oso. His voice is used with great precision throughout the album, from soaring lines on the minimalist opener “Country Radio” to plaintive lines on the rockin’ “The Great American Novel” to the distorted whispers that accompany the dark, cramped “Lions”. If that little grocery list didn’t give you an inkling of El Oso’s sound, this next line should: El Oso plays indie rock with occasional electronic tendencies and an emphasis on pop relatability.
And since they emphasize the pop elements of their sound, those are the elements which turn out the most. The elegant piano line here, the electronic pattern there, a splash of slide guitar and bells- all used sparingly and for great effect. The basic set-up is guitar/guitar/bass/drums- but what they do outside of that set-up is what makes El Oso shine musically. The best example of this is the powerful “Mt. Iceberg”, which cues up a chorus of male voices before dropping down to a click-drumming pattern, a bell kit, a piano, and hushed vocals. To say that it’s a contrast isn’t doing it justice- it’s a statement.
If you like the Shins, you should definitely check out “Julie Ann Fitzpatrick”- it’s a thrill that the Shins would be envious of. If you like the Strokes, you should check out “Natural Life”- you’ll dig it. And if you like downtempo, mellow stuff, you have to check out “Bury It and Smile”.
If a critic says he hates something, I usually go out and buy it to see for myself. If a critic says he likes something, I’m not as interested in it, for some reason. If I need to thrash El Oso to get you to go buy this, then I’ll do it- because you need this album if you like indie music. There’s no way around it. Whichever Chapter Covers Now will be on my top ten of 2005 list, and probably towards the top three. Until then the voice of El Oso will echo in my head.