Sunday, December 2nd, 2007
Sunday Cleaning – Volume 81
|Mono In VCF / Mono In VCF (independent)
With Portishead having been dormant for the better part of the past decade (only just now stirring again), there’s long been a vacuum in the pop music landscape where elegantly retro, John Barry-saluting spy film soundtrack music belongs and that’s a niche that the Tacoma, Washington’s Mono In VCF is well-suited to fill. Over a bed of lushly reverbed and tremoloed guitars and keyboards, singer Kim Miller’s tragic and dramatic vocals act as a portal to a world of smoky lounges with Hazelwood walls and intrigue in every dark corner. Neither as fractured and mournful as Portishead nor as icily detached as Broadcast, Mono In VCF’s craft is mostly organic, analog and achieved through a conventional band configuration, a fact that makes their sonic grandiosity that much more impressive.
The record isn’t without its missteps, however, ironically coming when the band attempts to stretch out stylistically – obviously conscious and wary of being pigeonholed. It’s not to say that their forays into English folk or 80s New Wave are bad, but alongside the much stronger, cinematic material they simply pale. I would never encourage a band to not grow but when you arrive with such a fully-formed, accomplished sound as Mono In VCF have, then surely there’s plenty of exploring to be done within the world they’ve already crafted.
|Pale Young Gentlemen / Pale Young Gentlemen (independent)
If I were the sort to write “so and so jamming with so and so in such and such a setting” reviews, then summing up the Pale Young Gentlemen would be easy – DeVotchKa, The Decemberists and Beirut staging a late night musical in the back room of a bar somewhere in Heidelberg. Good thing I’d never cop out like that. A remarkably accomplished debut both in concept and execution, Pale Young Gentlemen is richly conceived and written, lushy arranged and delivered with a boozy, woozy croon and a dramatically arched eyebrow.
The ease with which reference points for this outfit hailing a bit improbably from Madison, Wisconsin are conjured shouldn’t be taken as an indication that the Pale Young Gents are in any way derivative or unoriginal. Instead, it’s meant as high praise and perhaps a good omen that if acts as idiosyncratic and unconventional as those can find audiences and success, then there’s no reason at all that the Pale Young Gentlemen shouldn’t either.