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Breathe Owl Breathe

Magic Central

(Hometapes; US: 28 Sep 2010; UK: 6 Dec 2010)

Review [14.Nov.2010]

5


Breathe Owl Breathe
Magic Central


Their natural Michigan environs and the way they carry that into their music means Breathe Owl Breathe likely get tagged as “folk”, but on an essential level this is playful, creative pop music. That they also carry inside their songs the serenity of a lake and the wildness of nature, not to mention the fanciful, even silly, demeanor of children’s storybooks, makes it no less pop. While singing giddy melodies back and forth from one singer to the other, along with hand-claps, toy keyboards, banjo, cello, or various other instruments, they’re tapping into a human’s innate desire to create, to make up stories about the world, which is partly what this whole business is all about.


 

 



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Gigi

Maintenant

(Tomlab; US: 26 Jan 2010; UK: 8 Feb 2010)

Review [18.Mar.2010]

4


Gigi
Maintentant


Nick Kgrovich (No Kids, P:ano) has a keen ear for melody, informed by music history, and a sharp songwriting pen. For Gigi, he teamed with producer Colin Stewart and a host of guest vocalists and musicians, for a spiritual tribute to the Brill Building era that benefits from the witty, sad love songs and the singers’ skill at singing them. The credits include 40 people. It has the unity of theme and diversity of voice that made Stephin Merritt’s Sixths project so enjoyable, but to that it adds the warmth and collective energy of an ensemble project. There’s a spirit of inclusive joy that’s projected through every song, even the most heartbreaking ones. 


 

 



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A Weather

Everyday Balloons

(Team Love; US: 2 Mar 2010; UK: 15 Mar 2010)

Review [13.May.2010]

3


A Weather
Everyday Balloons


Portrait artists of everyday life, Portland’s A Weather close their focus in on the details, from objects strewn across rooms to the words people use when they’re trying to comfort each other. The way Aaron Gerber and Sarah Winchester sing back and forth to each other emulates conversation. Not only does their style of singing seem unique in music today, it gives the music the impression that these are people singing to the listener the way a friend would talk to you about something, even when they’re telling stories. Alternately diaristic, journalistic, and motivational, their songs pack an unexpected dramatic punch for such quiet music, one that hits close to home.


 

 



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Darren Hanlon

I Will Love You at All

(Yep Roc; US: 21 Sep 2010; UK: 21 Sep 2010)

Review [30.Nov.2010]

2


Darren Hanlon
I Will Love You at All


While taking Darren Hanlon’s songwriting to the next level of focus and variety, I Will Love You at All also reinvents the break-up album. Its songs detail, in memorable ways, not just a relationship falling apart, but also the recuperation, contemplation, and moving-on stages. Those songs commingle with songs that take an equally incisive look at the entire process of finding a home in the world. Hanlon uses his well-established wit in moving ways; jokes and worries are part of the same act of making sense of life. This is music of substance. Big questions are probed within bouncy pop songs that tap into Jonathan Richman and folk-music traditions alike. It’s an album about death as much as life, a perhaps literal reminder that we’re always dancing with the Grim Reaper.


 

 



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The Radio Dept.

Clinging to a Scheme

(Labrador; US: 20 Apr 2010; UK: 19 Apr 2010)

Review [19.Apr.2010]

1


The Radio Dept.
Clinging to a Scheme


On their third album, the Radio Dept. once again demonstrate the flexibility within their distinctly fuzzy style of pop music. They do their version of reggae, their version of the 1980s soft-pop ballad. While musically the album seems especially playful, even experimental, their songs carry a heavy weight, projecting an inherent disappointment in life that isn’t just about people letting people down, but about the struggles of everyday people to maintain their individuality within cultures that don’t value it. Within this collection of bittersweet pop songs lies an epic dialogue about hypocrisy and repression, about trying and failing to connect with other people in a way that would build something beautiful in the face of so many broken promises.


Dave Heaton has been writing about music on a regular basis since 1993, first for unofficial college-town newspapers and DIY fanzines and now mostly on the Internet. In 2000, the same year he started writing for PopMatters, he founded the online arts magazine ErasingClouds.com, still around but often in flux. He writes music reviews for the print magazine The Big Takeover. He is a music obsessive through and through. He lives in Kansas City, Missouri.


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