Wednesday, April 25th, 2007
How To Beat Dementia
If there’s one word to describe Brooklyn’s Palomar, it’s “dry”. Dry, as in the sound – the brand of power pop has a very direct, off the floor quality to it that’s a bit unusual in this day and age but well-suited to the band. And dry, as in the wit. Singer/songwriter Rachel Warren has a wonderfully sardonic wit which is evident in their lyrics and, as I found at SxSW in March, their live show. The three girls and one guy who make up the band are pretty wickedly funny.
If I could choose a second word as a descriptor, it’d be “understated”, though it rather ties in with the aforementioned dryness. It’s not just their choice to eschew whiz-bang production on their records, including their just-released fourth album All Things, Forests, it’s also inherent in the songs. Lyrically, Warren is equally wry and wistful – maybe a bit disappointed in how things (whatever those things may be) have turned out but still able to smile about it. The vocal melodies and harmonies and the guitar lines are all kept compact and simple but effective. Not a note is wasted and while it may make for a slightly less immediate listen, it’s that much more satisfying when the songs reveal themselves. But a curious side-effect of this aesthetic, whether intentional or not, is when they go for the big sonic moment it still ends up sounding a bit small. Stepping on a distortion pedal sounds just like stepping on a distortion pedal and in the finale of album closer “Alone”, what’s probably meant to sound like a wall of voices still just sounds like four people overdubbed several times over and with reverb applied. It’s not intended as a complaint – the last thing the world needs is more bands who want to sound like the Arcade Fire – just an interesting observation.
And if I can have one more adjective, it’d be Fuzzy. Not as in tonality – the guitars are kept pretty clean and when that distortion pedal I mentioned is stomped, it’s more Rat than Big Muff (guitar geeks will know of what I speak) – but as in the Boston-based indie pop band of the late 90s. The first time I heard Palomar I was immediately reminded of their stuff – maybe less bubbly and definitely not derivative but certainly drawing from the same well. Palomar have cultivated their own distinct, dry and understated style and All Things, Forest is a fine representation of it.
And below, the only real evidence of Fuzzy’s existence than I could find online. Great song.
Harp goes to town with their cover story on lead Grinderman Nick Cave. In addition to the feature interview, they’ve got a timeline of Cave’s career and a discussion with the man about his foray into screenwriting work with 2005’s The Proposition.
Pitchfork talks to Shearwater’s Jonathan Meiburg about their redo and reissue of Palo Santo and ornithological taxidermy. The new edition of the album is interesting – normally you’d expect that when a band gets the chance to redo a song, they gussy it up with extra production, bells and whistles. In the case of Palo Santo, however, it’s almost the opposite approach. The re-recorded songs sound much more live off the floor in production, arrangement and performance. They sound very much like how they did live, which makes sense since they went back into the studio after a heavy regimen of touring in 2006 that had the band running as a well-oiled machine. Unlike Good Hodgkins, I’m reluctant to declare the new version of the record in all ways superior to the original edition since I loved that record so much, flaws and all (though I certainly didn’t and still don’t consider it flawed) but will say that the new release, especially with the remastering, sounds amazing in its own right.
Show updates – Added to the BrakesBrakesBrakes show at Lee’s Palace June 12 are Electric Soft Parade and Pela while Shiny Toy Guns, Stars Of Track & Field and The Hourly Radio are in town at the Mod Club on June 21. And Snow Patrol have a date at the Molson Amphitheatre on August 7.