Songs for Mei and Satsuki
(07.2008, Magic Goat)
Verdict = gritty, wide-eyed pop nuggets pushing into the red
I think as a reader you deserve an admission from me on this one. I love Hayao Miyazaki films. Princess Mononoke, Spirited Away and My Neighbor Totoro (with the original dubbing or Japanese voice overs) are among my favourite films of all time. That may seem like an odd admission in preface to an album review, however, Navigator’s latest outing, Songs for Mei and Satsuki, compiles 10 tracks in ode to the legendary Anime director’s various films. The concept is an utterly geeky and obsessive one to be sure, but the result at the hand of Navigator mastermind, Braden J. McKenna, is nothing short of humble adoration turned into wide-eyed brilliance. I guess it might be good to assure people who haven’t seen a Miyazaki film that it isn’t necessary to enjoy this album (though recommended based solely on their merit as film). Even those who have no particular affinity for the films (I don’t think this is possible, but it just may be) will find that the there is no real necessity of caring any way whatsoever about the director's legacy to become enthralled with Songs for Mei and Satsuki. So, enough about the inspiration/gimmick, the music stands on its own creative legs very sturdily. You know what, lets just get all of the technical stuff out of the way up front, I think that McKenna is marketing this thing as a full length album, but the album is super brief at just under twenty minutes in length. And, again, for the record, this may seem like mark in the negative for Navigator, but it isn’t - the work actually holds up pretty nicely as a “full length” in the breadth of its ideas and movement of its sequenced tracks. Eventually, you’ll become so addicted that you’ll have to burn the album three times over onto a separate CDr in order to take as little time possible skipping back to the beginning. So what is this incredible music I speak of that seems completely unhindered by general standards of length and concept? Being that Navigator is pretty much still a virtual unknown some cheap comparisons might be good. The album is kind of like Microphones/Mt. Eerie filtered through Times New Viking’s pedals and recording equipment or perhaps a poppier, major chord version of the Meneguar side-project Woods. I make those comparisons specifically to the album because Navigator has proved himself as something of a shape shifter between this release, his freely downloadable loop based Ep and his much loved debut album from last year, the lo-fi folk spiritual, Throwing Tongues. The progression has been in long strides and the results have been nothing short of exhilarating. With Songs for Mei and Satsuki, Navigator has pretty much secured our permanent attention to anything with the Navigator tag. You simply can’t burn this one out no matter how many times in a row you play it. The hooks and melodies are platinum strength with the ability to withstand any amount of hypothetical radio play or popular acceptance (regardless of how far fetched). Seriously, if I over heard my mainstream hip hop obsessed sister listening to this I would still have no grounds for denying its genius. My final gasp of utter adoration and praise is this, and it is directed to you Mr. McKenna: how do you create a modern pop opus - about cartoons - in just under twenty minutes?
Navigator on Virb