[10 September 2008]
“There are no women in Azeda Booth” announces the landing page of the Calgary band’s Web site. The purpose of this preemptive strike? To let visitors know straightaway that although he sings like a 16-year-old girl, lead singer Jordan Hossack is an adult male—a falsetto-voiced, emo-to-the-core adult male, but an adult male nonetheless.
In the grand lattice of the contemporary indie rock landscape, Azeda Booth fits somewhere between Mum and the Postal Service. It’s not a bad place to be. They share the former’s tendency for plaintive synthesizers mixed with blips and glitches, and, like the Postal Service, they shoot straight for the heart with a sweet pop sensibility.
The final result on In Flesh Tones is really pretty gorgeous mood music. In fact, I would be surprised if at least one under-washed undergrad hasn’t already employed it as an accessory to lure a fellow undergrad into his bed. Hossack’s clipped vocals—which resemble those of Tegan and Sara more than Antony & the Johnsons, as their Web site suggests—are a lovely foil to the thwips and shhfts and pretty guitar filigrees that float through the album like light, ceaseless snowfall.
Many of the notes the band hits are similar to those you’ll find on Sigur Ros’ landmark sophomore album Agaetis Byrjun, the moody, bittersweet opening to “Well” being among the best examples of the similarity. But unlike their Icelandic peers, Azeda Booth never veer into bombast or loud-quiet-loud dynamics. Nor do they set their sights as galaxy-deep as Sigur Ros does. That’s not to say their music doesn’t have an extraterrestrial quality to it. However, the aliens who populate Azeda Booth’s soundscape are closer to E.T. than the smooth-skinned, almond-eyed ones you imagine when you hear Sigur Ros.
Like E.T., Azeda Booth often sounds endearingly naive, but there are times when their naiveté works against them, particularly when it comes to their lyrics. The words to these songs seem as if they were written by someone with the literary acumen of E.T., or worse, a 15-year-old goth kid. Listeners are advised to blur their hearing to let the words blend into the music, which tends to happen anyway. Otherwise, you run the risk of ruining the soothing, heartrending effect the music often has. These lines from “Lobster Quadrille” exemplify what I mean: “Curled at your brother’s feet / All pigeon-toed ‘n cricket-bowed / And budgie-beaked / You sang to me”.
Although the prevailing mood of In Flesh Tones is undeniably sentimental, the band is at its best when it keeps sentiment to a minimum, such as on the feather-light meditation “Be It”, the album closer and its only instrumental track. With a debut this promising, it’s hard to fault Azeda Booth too much for their relatively minor flaws. My one of word advice: Consider going the route of Sigur Ros, and sing meaningless syllables rather than coherent words. Such an approach would permit all of us to live our lives without encountering unfortunate phrases like, “It’s pitiful; you’re menstruating / Who stole your heart while snow kissed your eyes?”