Friday, June 26, 2009

Reviews: Stuart Murdoch (God Help The Girl) / Suckers (EP) / Foreign Born

Stuart Murdoch
God Help The Girl

(Streaming here - at the Matador Blog)

Belle & Sebastian’s Stuart Murdoch had a musical, or a soundtrack, or, well, something he didn’t quite understand, bursting out of his brains from about 2004 onwards. While setting these songs aside (dependent upon a yet-unheard female voice), Murdoch was unable to let the project get off the ground since his band was in the middle of one of its most successful tours (behind one of its most well received albums, The Life Pursuit) in 2007 – but closing said tour at the Hollywood Bowl backed up by a large orchestra pushed him over the edge. Gathering together various female vocalists, a 45-piece orchestra, and unfolding the dreamy, swaying sanctity of his new arias, flush with string saws, harp drizzles, sadly beautiful piano prances and all those sweet circuitous melodies that can soothe as well as cut, that we’ve become so used to from Murdoch’s mind, through B&S.
The melodramatic strings fit so nicely over steady stepping beats and funky guitar chords (“Funny Little Frog,” featuring the soulful, punching wail of Brittany Stallings, found from a B&S demos she edited herself into via iMeem, online.) You can almost picture Julie Andrews singing the primp bouncy waltz of “Pretty Eve in the Tub,” if not for the weird blend of playful, suggestive lovers into parental/wisdom-imparting doting – the strings cut away and Murdoch’s gossamer vocals almost waft out the window with the stellar Catherine Ireton as his duet partner. It feels at times as though it flirts with the stately, theatrical, orchestral-new-wave hybrids of self-deprecating narratives that Jens Lekman, or even at times Magnetic Fields churn out (“Perfect As A Helper”)

It is perhaps hurt and helped by the fact that Murdoch has not yet finished the idea of this movie, or musical, at least on paper (or in production) or even perhaps, finished it in his own mind – because the songs are a flavorful mix that feel culled from potentially fourteen different movies, or at least fourteen different settings (and, as inevitable with a Murdoch piece) fourteen different emotions – all poetically pushed with soft, smooth panache. You’ll just have to see where it goes…


Suckers EP
(I Am Sound)

(Debut EP from Brooklyn weird-pop quartet, featuring a
Cutz favorite - Quinn Walker)

For their first official release, this Brooklyn quartet flexes their assorted tastes and gets downright jaunty. Like some delectable blend of sad and beautiful vaudevillian tea parties with prancing pianos and high-range (falsetto-flirting) harmonies, (ala Something Else-era Kinks) stirred in with 70’s strutting theatro-rock (ala Hunky Dory­-era Bowie) but tinged with their own leanings toward sunny surf tones, breezy, melodious pop, strung out atmospheric haunting reverb and a bit of world music tribalism.

That the quartet (Quinn Walker, Austin Fisher, Pan, and Brian Aiken) are buds with some of the Yeasayer crowd can shine through a bit on the sound, but it comes out much less melancholic, or droney than said-band’s most recent release. But that already reveals that this band could come close to the pigeonholing of being either a sunnier Yeasayer, or a poppier Animal Collective in the quick, slide-off-the-desk shotgun approach of music critics and listeners alike. This EP deserves a fair shake – it’s trim, it’s tight, it’s strong – and you wish it would go on at least four songs longer, to last you a bit on those ideal hot summer drives. and freaky

Foreign Born

Person To Person
(Secretly Canadian)

Hopefully this LA quartet’s 2nd LP isn’t hindered by anyone sequentially rereading band name-into-album title and thinking of some panic inducing new global pandemic.

Well, the other hope is that they don’t get pigeonholed in with a swath of other similarly situated literate indie pop bands with sunny tones and warm melodies. The guitars are gorgeous, with flavorful arcing riffs, the percussion is intricate and driving, the vocals are smooth enough and passionate enough to tango with any other art-pop/heart-on-the-sleeve, British-indie types. Strong effort, and it sounds good, but hopefully not lost in the mix of all those other indie rockers finely putting poetics over guitar pedals. Cover your mouth – open your heart.

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