Tuesday, October 27th, 2009
Review of Bishop Allen’s Grr… and giveaway
Sebastian MlynarskiLet it never be said I’m beholden to the traditional press cycle when it comes to reviews. At least not when it comes to Brooklyn’s Bishop Allen. I only got around to writing up their second album, The Broken String last December, almost a year and a half after it was released, and here I am now just getting to their latest Grr… though in this case, the delay is a mere seven months. Almost eight. At least I got the review of their show here in January up within days.
With regards to the lag times, for The Broken String the defense was that, well, I didn’t really know the band but had hung onto the CD for just that long because I had a hunch I’d like it. Why I didn’t just spin the thing sooner and find out is an excellent question. I have a team of experts researching that right now. But for Grr…, it was simply a matter of waiting for the record to win me over the way its predecessor did. And waiting. And waiting. See, what I appreciated about The Broken String was the collegiate cleverness, tempered with open-hearted earnestness and mated with terrific singalong melodies.
And while you can still sing along with Grr…, the band seems to have regressed to a simpler state as far as songwriting goes. This doesn’t seem to be an accident, but a deliberate stylistic shift – the lyrical density and detailed storytelling has given way to more impressionistic wordplay and sometimes nonsensical rhymes. The production is much drier and leaner, often emphasizing just Justin Rice’s voice and Christian Rudder’s guitar, and even the album title and art is primary school basic and playful. And maybe that’s the point of this record, to step back from The Broken String, strip things down to and get back to basics for a spell. If so, job well done. Grr… is a study in simplicity, doing more with less and seeing just how far you can go powered just by melody. It was personally a bit frustrating to have a band I’d just gotten into shelve from those characteristics that drew me to them in the first place, but Grr… is still a pop treat by more objective standards.
The band is currently on tour and will be at the El Mocambo in Toronto on Friday night, October 30. Tickets are $15 in advance but courtesy of REMG, I’ve got two pairs of passes to give away for the show. To enter, email me at contests AT chromewaves.net with “I want to go Grrr” in the subject line and your full name in the body. Contest closes at midnight, October 28.
MP3: Bishop Allen – “Dimmer”
MP3: Bishop Allen – “The Ancient Commonsense Of Things”
Video: Bishop Allen – “Shanghaied”
Video: Bishop Allen – “Dimmer”
MySpace: Bishop Allen
Stereogum points out that a the CBC’s QTV has been compiling a series of video guitar lessons from musical guests passing through their studios, including The National and Vampire Weekend. Did I just stop writing to dust of the guitar and learn to play, “Fake Empire”? Maybe I did. Maybe I did. Also discovered I lost my capo. No “Slow Show” for me.
Neither of these are officially confirmed, but February 9 may see a new record from Shearwater entitled The Golden Archipelago appear in stores. Jonathan Meiburg provided some details on the record this Summer to Michael Hoinski and chimed in on the band’s message boards to discuss some of the possible forms the album would be appearing in – namely different tracklistings and running orders for the CD and LP editions, with the LP coming out as a longer entity than the CD.
The California Literary Review has an extensive feature on Nicole Atkins, currently on the road with her band The Black Sea road-testing material for album number two, set to be recorded this Winter and released next year.
NPR has a World Cafe session with New York’s Freelance Whales, who will be touring with Fanfarlo this Fall including their December 9 date at the El Mocambo so if you’re planning on being at that show – which you obviously should – make their acquaintance now. Stereogum also declared them a band to watch back in September.
Video: Land Of Talk – “It’s Okay”
Basia Bulat will lead up to the January 26 release of her new record Heart Of My Own with her biggest and fanciest Toronto show yet, playing Trinity-St. Paul’s on January 16. Tickets are $20 in advance, on sale Thursday.
As much as I want to put stock in this typically sensationalistic NME piece on a possible Pulp reunion for Glastonbury next year, I’m far more inclined to side with Idolator’s take on it. Jarvis is much too canny to let something as huge as that slip in that manner. And on second thought, I hope it’s false because I don’t want to have to really face the question of just how far (distance, expense, camping in mud) would I be willing to go to see Pulp live. I suspect the answer is not as far as would be necessary.