Monday, October 12, 2009

Zoos of Berlin, Why? and The Skygreen Leopards

Zoos of Berlin
(2009, Self Released)
RIYL = PAS/Cal, Colourmusic, The Pernice Brothers

Taxis, the debut album (correct me if I’m wrong) of Zoos of Berlin is an album that is destined to be glossed over by the critical establishment and, as unfortunate as the correlation may be, by the record buying/illegally-downloading public as a whole. The problem is that on the surface, Taxis is a fairly standard example of indie pop that makes no inordinate stretches for a unique selling point or “angle” which can be easily written up. And it is because of this apparent lack distinctiveness that folks most likely won’t find their way to Taxis. After all, it’s just pop music right? So wrong. And not only that, but Zoos of Berlin are distinctive. Distinctive, at least, in the fact that they make pristine pop songs better than 95% of the 4-star, 8.0+, “Best New Music” out there. Taxis is tight vessel of pop glory filled with all manner of extravagant brass flourishes, smooth vocal harmonies and baroque song structures that belie their immediately satisfying pop accessibility by cutting deeper and deeper with every listen. But, again, there is the problem…what more can I say? It is simply good; just really good pop that you can always rely on to get you through the day and much better than most of the major indie label marketing hoopla that generally scoops up all the attention. That's it. So take a listen or ten.

Zoos of Berlin, "Black in the Sun Room" from Adam Lonczynski on Vimeo.

Eskimo Snow
(2009, Anticon)
RIYL = Subtle, Silver Jews,

I wanted to write a little blurb about Eskimo Snow because I have noticed, after scanning a few reviews on the album that there was a split between the general consensus of its 'goodness'. It appears that about half of those reviewing the album consider it just ok while the other half of reviewers insist upon it being really really good. Personally, my initially reaction to the album was, “meh, this is alright, but I miss the hard hitting break beats from Alopecia.” So, I guess you could pit me squarely in the it’s-ok-but-I-liked-them-better-when-they-were-more-hip-hop group. However, after listening to the album one more time than I normally would when dealing out a similarly apathetic-but-positive assessment of an album, something caught me. I wasn’t sure what it was, so I kept listening to the album over and over again. And now, while I can still say that I absolutely love the more evenly split quasi-hip hop of the band’s past, this new, more straight forward indie rock version of Why? is absolutely genius. Sassigrass has finally convinced me that it is not really indie Americana, despite the couple instances of slide guitar; Eskimos Snow is simply one of the tightest bits of lush indie pop/rock of the year. Just weighing in.

The Skygreen Leopards
Gorgeous Johnny
(2009, Jagjaguwar)
RIYL = Flying Canyon, Giant Sunflower Band

It seems that I'm just pickin' bones with these three reviews, but so be it. (Again,) I’ve read a couple of reviews of The Skygreen Leopards most recent album and couldn’t help but notice the casual dissatisfaction that some of the people felt about the album. A dissatisfaction which, after I listened to the album, seemed a little unwarranted. Sure, Gorgeous Johnny strays even further from The Skygreen Leopards experimentally tinged roots into straight forward bummer psych pop, but that doesn’t mean these songs aren’t completely enjoyable. I suppose the casual nature in which Donavan Quinn and Glenn Donaldson seem to effortlessly pull off the tiny little corner of outsider pop they now own can be a little unsettling. I mean, you can certainly hear the fluidity and ease with which the two of them seemed to be able to just pick up a couple of guitars and churn this thing out in a couple of hours, but that effortlessness is by no means worthy of distain. Seems to me that some of the reviewers are a bit jealous. Heaven knows I am. Fact is, Gorgeous Johnny is not going to go down in the record books as The Skygreen Leopards magnum opus, but that doesn’t mean that it won’t be the record that you end up playing the most based on the easy going, instant satisfaction that it produces. Just saying…

The Skygreen Leopards on MySpace



Wooly Mammal said...

I prefer Skygreen Leopords when they are more straight forward, but the song writing on this new album has taken a step back. One of the biggest bummers of the year for me. Cry cry cry.

Anonymous said...

I guess that is why they call it bummer folk?

wooly mammal said...