Now Hear This 2004

[1 January 2004]

By PopMatters Staff

NOW HEAR THIS 2004   Can’t figure out what to listen to? Listen to us. Once again, PopMatters’ music team presents a highly opinionated, undoubtedly superlative but ultimately revelatory examination of 18 artists that demand your attention. NOW.
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:: Best Band With Generically Named Frontman

So you’ve forked over your last four bucks for another ice-cold delicious lager in the only club in town that pays original acts. The PA system is as old as your parents, there should be more people here, and there are no more cigarettes. However, incentive lies in the beer and the other band taking the stage. They got a crappy slot because they’re not as well known as the stagnant pool of bands that play here regularly, so you stick around to see what’s what. Here’s what’s what: The Wise and Foolish Builders are still pining away under the radar and nobody who’s seen or heard their remarkable brand of chamber pop can figure out why.

They casually take their positions under poorly lit circumstances and begin what can only be described as a puzzling mastery of playing and songwriting. Ben Smith leans lazily behind his piano and offers heavenly meditations on how it’s okay to be named “Smith,” even though there are so many Smiths out there. Mark Kitson handles gentle flourishes of pedal steel guitar and occasionally switches over to six strings like nothing ever happened. Everyone standing around wonders why these four young men are playing in this tiny smoke-filled room when they can clearly pack stadiums if given the chance and proper promotion. But that’s neither here nor there, so the patrons just concentrate on these dreamy warm blankets of multiple harmonies and sunny childhood memories. These moments aren’t to be missed, and Matt Magarahan reminds everyone from behind his drum set just how important the chorus is. A little is borrowed from the pop giants of the late ‘60s and early ‘70s, but this only filters in when bassist Craig Gonci and Magarahan offer some backup vocals. After the piece’s tenth climax, Smith retreats effortlessly to an exit piano melody and shies into witty between-song banter. Sometimes I wish I had a little more time to finish my beer and reflect on how charming the first song was before they start another one, but I don’t, so I order another drink and just ease into how absolutely wonderful this band is.

— Dominic Umile

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