[18 March 2009]
PopMatters Associate Music Editor
“A brave new world is on the phone,” Josh Reichmann sings during “Great Shadows”, the first song on the five-song debut EP from the Josh Reichmann Oracle Band. The lyric’s sense of determination carries a different meaning than it would have if Reichmann wasn’t now the leader of a new band, or if his previous band Tangiers hadn’t released three excellent, dynamic pop-rock LPs that endeared the band to many of us. The “brave new world” talk is also part of the more mystical spin of the Oracle Band. He sings of a new god, of a new age, and the music seems purposely twisted to suit this direction. The band plays woodwinds, keyboards, drums and guitar with a mannered sort of chaos, overselling strangeness. Reichmann tends to turn pop melodies into yelped riddles, using his voice to bury or battle against the songs’ pop-leaning structures. It’s a route that aligns rather neatly with indie-rock trends of our day, from the “freak folk” folks to the increased influence of Neutral Milk Hotel. That’s to the detriment of songs like “Ancient Bloody Paradise (I Miss You)”, where Reichmann singing of ghosts and bones feels familiar. On most of the EP that “new-world” slant of the music feels at odds with the songs themselves. Only on “Believe in Souls” do the competing forces of strangeness and pop melodicism coalesce tightly together. The song still has an ambiguous philosophical side, but it also rocks forward naturally, with horns echoing the tune and the sentiment of healing that it carries.