Phonograph: Phonograph

[22 April 2007]

By Aarik Danielsen

On their self-titled debut, the members of Brooklyn, New York’s Phonograph adeptly weave electronic sounds, ambient textures and fine layers of production together with a folk rock shuffle. The results are so earnest you’d swear the band had written each song with hands planted firmly in pockets and feet scuffing hometown streets. The band’s marriage of the straight-ahead and the sonically expansive will inevitably garner them the “next Wilco” designation from critics. Such comparisons will only be supported by previous engagements opening for the aforementioned established act. In light of, or perhaps in spite of, such parallels, it is worth noting how the band’s sound recalls familiar influences, without seeming contrived or derivative. For example, frontman Matthew Welsh’s delivery is Dylan-esque at times, yet his voice has a more rich, baritone quality which allows him to guide the band’s songs as both world-weary sage and detached observer. Exuding a quiet confidence and ambition, the group shows no signs of first album jitters or timidity, swinging for the fences, and more often than not (“Interlude” and “Isobel” being the only cuts that even slightly disappoint) hitting the mark with standout tracks like “In Your Mind”, “Watch and Ward”, “Parsons White” and “TV Screens”. One of the most consistent and stellar debuts in recent memory, the group has taken a step towards ensuring young artists may one day be labeled “the next Phonograph.”

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