Music Self-Played Is Happiness Self-Made
—They Might Be Giants
Newton’s Third Law of Motion states, “For every action there is an equal and opposite reaction”. So for every act of mega-corporate conglomeration that in the end rules over major music media outlets with an iron fist and makes payola look like a street-level “three-card monte” scam, there is an equal and opposite reaction of musicians who have taken matters into their own hands. These musicians range from basement studio noodlers to bands on independent labels slogging it out the old-fashioned way.
HummingBird Sound is a studio/label for the self-made musician, providing state of the art equipment for DIY-ers in the New York area. It’s also the home of musician Jeffrey Touzeau, the one-man force behind Lilypoint. As the digital age has progressed, it’s become a fairly common thing to hear albums that are one-person shows, but it’s still impressive to see every aspect of an album’s creation, from songwriting to performing, to production and engineering, and all the way up to distribution handled by a single artist. It’s even more impressive when that artist manages to produce a genuinely worthwhile product. The greatest detriment to an individual controlling a whole project is that no one is there to counterbalance opinions and to help the artist gain perspective on issues that are too personal to be objective.
Thankfully, Touzeau seems accomplished enough not to need the help. Lilypoint’s debut is beautiful in a way that both contemporary folk singers and current popsters find difficult to pull off without sounding cheesy. There is a clarity and honesty to this collection of songs that offers up a rare adjective for a music review: integrity. Evoking folky, acoustic masters like Paul Simon and James Taylor, but drenched in the sounds of the Beach Boys and sprinkled with quiet touches of power pop, Lilypoint’s ventures have an inescapable aura of warmth and fuzziness.
Maybe warm fuzzies aren’t your thing, but if you have any interest in pure pop, if you’ve ever thought that Brian Wilson is a genius instead of a drug addled surfer geek, then Lilypoint will astound you. From the moment I Saw You opens, the most arresting element is the pristine melody backed up by perfect harmonies. Touzeau realizes that the basis for doo wop and early rock and roll vocals is all about the barbershop quartet harmony. Of course, this probably has a lot to do with Touzeau being a member of the award-winning, internationally touring barbershop chorus, The Winchester Chordsmen. Needless to say, this guy can really sing. Regardless, Touzeau is also savvy enough to know that three- and four-part harmonies are to be used with precision and not to excess, a lesson that the Wilsons could have used at times.
The album’s opener, “Oatmeal in My Eye”, is an excellent example of what Lilypoint achieves musically. Beginning with a soft, rambling acoustic guitar/bass line, Touzeau slips into his soft and sweet melody. Then the chorus erupts into barbershop/Beach Boys four-part harmonies that sweep the music up in tempo and energy, only to coalesce into a country ramble on an electric guitar for the bridge, which then blends back into the harmonies and heads into southern rock territory. And then back to the soft acoustic guitar/bass line in a graceful descent. All of this perfectly woven together, and all of this perfectly played and sung by that one man.
“Oatmeal in My Eye”, which, as the title suggests, is about the beautiful silliness of feeding a baby, actually went to #2 on the mp3.com children’s charts. Yup. Children’s music. Take that, Disney! How can a song with the lyrics, “Feedin’ time goes by too fast / Do your best to make it last / And have some formula with me” not be cool? Propelled by nothing more than the power of the track and the adventurousness of mp3.com listeners, it’s not hard to see how this was a hit on the Internet. The Beatles-cum-Beach Boys second single, “Henry the Hippo”, is also a children’s song. At least, on the surface. Viewed differently, the song could have sat alongside anything from Sgt. Pepper’s or Abbey Road for simple pop psychedelia.
Don’t get the wrong idea, though. Lilypoint is not a pop band for children and this isn’t an album of children’s songs. “Rotten Wood” and “Her Footsteps” tell a more typical story of broken or lost love. “Just Think of a Picture” and “Autumn Morning” (which includes Touzeau’s wife—the only other performer on the album—on backing vocals) are moving and honest love songs without being sickly sweet or sounding faked. Touzeau’s gift lies in his ability to marry an excellent and skilled tune to simple, poetic vocals and never seem like an actor. As I said, this is music with integrity.
Whether Touzeau is celebrating childhood and his new daughter’s future, confirming his bond of love with his wife, or bemoaning a friend’s abusive relationship, he has an ear for music that many singer-songwriters should envy. Getting his start as a musician while a teenager into Joy Division, The Cure, and Syd Barrett, Jeffrey Touzeau has matured into a man with an incredibly honest and pure pop vision. Check out Lilypoint’s site to give these songs a listen and you’ll hear what I mean.
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// Notes from the Road
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