Rachel Taylor Brown: layering, piano, god


If you spend a lot of time reviewing local music, you hear a lot of the Chris Cornell guy singing over a "dunh dunh dunh!" guitar line, or those screamer-Kinney female vocalist clones, or the keyboard duos that Just! Want! Dancing!

As such, when something different comes along, it merits a further look.

So, what exactly is this warbling-but-better-than-that beautiful thing that has landed in my mailbox today?

Why, it's Rachel Taylor Brown's new album, Half Hours With the Lower Creatures!

It all starts off with with a sound collage full of clanks and bells, Brown's wordless singing setting the atmosphere before she pounds away singing about maniacs and radios in the third track, "Stagg Field." The vampy piano, quiet-loud dynamics, and bass instrumentation on recalls Ben Folds Five, especially in the beginning and ending sections of "Mette in Madagascar," when the band bounces along, propelling the song.

The layers of background vocals peppered throughout definitely continue the BF5 comparison, but where he often offered slices of life and tales full of characters, Brown dabbles throughout her album in religious imagery. It slows her down a bit, in that you start to wonder if she's a one-subject pony--though this album talks about God in Tori Amos way, not a god rock way.

All in all, I have to admit, Half Hours has got a bit of the same-y-itis, but I don't see that as a sign of weakness--I see it as a decent album from someone who has potential to make some great stuff happen on future releases. I bet her music will fill the room at Mississippi Studios, and I hope I can make it out.

Rachel Taylor Brown plays that official CD Release party on April 5th.

"Mette in Madagascar," from Half Hours With the Lower Creatures:

[audio:Mette_in_Madagascar.mp3]

It's rather extr'ordinary

Some songs really do just fix everything, always.

This is one of them.

[youtube:http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=n3H4TTNSnO8]

Spoon, "Lines in the Suit"

Around and about the fall of 2001, I subscribed to CMJ New Music Monthly, based on two things that I knew to be true:

  1. The first issue I ever got, back in December 1994, contained a compilation that I still rank as one of the best, if not the best, compilations ever.
  2. The issue I got before deciding to subscribe also kicked a ton of ass, introducing me to a lot of singles (including a Marilyn Manson song I actually liked, and "Weekend," by the Black-Eyed Peas, pre-hype) and bands I thought that perhaps I might want to check out further.

I kept my subscription for a while but eventually felt like the samplers--the biggest reason I subscribed at all--were increasingly off the mark for me.

This is a long way of saying that all the way back when, I discovered a great song called "Lines in the Suit," by a band no one really seemed to know named Spoon. I loved the way the guy sang--almost talky, a bit raspy--and somehow the weird tromp-glomp of the guitar-drums-and-sometimes-piano stuck in my brain. I started including it on mix CDs left and right, and Girls Can Tell was one of those albums that I would watch for whenever I browsed at record shops. Eventually, when the next album came out and everyone was very very Spoon-smitten, finding their albums became easier, but I never bought any of them, for some reason.

Soon my lack of Spoon become comical--almost embarrassing. Here was a band that was seemingly adored by every critic, and even some of my internet pals(still a new thing to have just a few years ago). Their album covers (especially for Gimme Fiction) seemed nearly ubiquitous in all the publications I read, and even most record stores (note to self: figure out who their publicist is if I ever want to "make it big"). My lack of (much) caring about the fact that their intriguing singer (named Britt. Britt!) lived in my new home of Portland was odd, too.

By the time 2007 was coming to a close, it was clear that Ga Ga Ga Ga Ga was another critical success, and I had, predictably, been intrigued to the point of curiosity but not to the point of purchasing. I also had decided that no, I wanted to be all chronological about it, and get the album I should have gotten years before, start with that awesome song "Lines in the Suit," and work forward. No, I would not bow down to (Ga)5--I would experience it all in order, diligently, methodically.

And then my girlfriend got way into that song "The Underdog," I started hearing it on the radio, and it was great, in all its Billy-Joel-but-fresh sounding glory.

So, yesterday, I gave up. I used a bunch of eMusic downloads, downloaded both Cinco Ga's* and Girls Can Tell, and I plan to enroll in Spoon School. So far Ga was too much for a post nature-walking day, but "Lines in the Suit" was still crispy as just poured cereal wth lyrics like "It could have been good by now--it could have been more than a wage, yeah" and that repeated use of "At such a tender age now."

Brilliant stuff.

*I know I know, it's just too much fun.

[audio:Lines_in_the_Suit.mp3]

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Related:

Video for "The Underdog"

Britt Daniel so totally sings "Veronica," on Veronica Mars

Other People's Words, 28 February 2008

Radiohead remixes for free (and it's legal!). [via]

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I was first introduced to largehearted boy because some smart ass made a tracker that listed how often he posted about the Mountain Goats (short answer: often). So, it comes as no surprise that he would have a great interview on the site with Mr. Darnielle, the day Heretic Pride comes out. I had to avoid reading all of it because I want to have a mostly unsullied-by-reviews reaction to it, but I surely will come back to it later. A favorite part:

SM: "In the Craters on the Moon" talks about "the end of a long war," but it's not a political song...

JD: THANK YOU SAM DO YOU HAVE ANY IDEA HOW MANY INTERVIEWERS THINK THIS IS A POLITICAL SONG BECAUSE IT HAS THE WORD "WAR" IN IT. I love everybody but seriously people a signpost doesn't always indicate a road.

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Rosemary posted about the free Mobius Band covers album, and proved that you can capture the personal meaning of a song in far fewer words than I usually do.

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Maxim reviews Black Crowes album; doesn't actually listen to it.

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David Byrne on yet another music distribution model.

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Great shots of the two Doug Fir Mountain goats shows from flickr member xXxBrianxXx.