AM/FM: Getting Into Sinking

Jason Thompson


Getting Into Sinking

Label: Polyvinyl
US Release Date: 2001-10-16

I miss the old days of the music industry. You know, when you could count on your favorite artist or band releasing an album per year and then doing a tour. Somewhere in the '90s that all changed. All of a sudden the rule became release an album every two or three years, so we can milk every possible single on the current release and shoot countless videos. What do I care about videos? Just gimme an album I can sit back, listen to, and enjoy. I'm one of those old fogies who still buys a record because of the music.

However, here I am listening to this marvelous album by AM/FM called Getting Into Sinking and finding out that this is the band's second release for this year. And this record is brilliant! The last album these guys had out was just a few short months ago back in March. So see, it is still possible to have things like they used to be, no doubt thanks in part to labels such as Polyvinyl going the distance to support their artists and put out their music. There are still large sections of the industry where the finished product does not revolve around a video.

AM/FM features Brian Sokel and Michael Parsell, two gents straight out of Philly. Again, score another round for Pennsylvania's finest (between it and Austin, Texas, you couldn't ask for better cities who are currently housing a great number of excellent indie bands). The duo has created here an album that pop music fans should delight in. And by "pop", I mean in the classic style, not the current glossy trend. Fans of Jellyfish will really dig AM/FM, as the group likes to play with past influences. However, where Jellyfish wore those influences on its sleeve, AM/FM takes them and makes them something completely new. So yes, you could listen to this and say, oh that sounds a bit like Brian Wilson, but at the same time it would sound like AM/FM. It's a strange effect, but it's all superb.

The music throughout Getting Into Sinking is joyous, yearning, and just a little bittersweet. It's the kind of album you just sit down and listen to. The opening track, "Virgins! Virgins!" is filled with irresistible vocal hooks. This is one of those groups that employ falsettos to a great degree, and it works like a dream every time. The hummed background vocal parts, the quietly strummed acoustic guitars, and the uncommonly liquid-like lead guitar lines all form together to concoct an emotionally satisfying brand of pop that melts into your ears.

Bare, honest emotion is also part of the AM/FM mix. In the wonderfully titled "If We Burned All the Assholes the Earth Would Look Like the Sun", Sokel sings, "It's hard to believe that you said to me / Late that night in New York City / You don't need to impress me / Your love is all I need". Such musings often come off as trite and forgettable from other bands, but here, AM/FM handles the words with ease and not a trace of irony or cheekiness. In "All Your Dreams Come True" (which sounds like a cross between classic Beach Boys experimentation and Pink Floyd's "San Tropez"), Brian states "It's not like time will wait for us but it slows down / If you try hard enough and make no sound / It'll come back around". Again, it's simply straightforward. These are the kind of love songs that were very common not too terribly long ago before the need for Barbie doll sexuality swept over the pop landscape. Well, it's nice to hear someone taking the time to be real once again rather than singing from their groin.

In "The Death They Claim" the band once again flirts with a kind of Sixties pop rock sound that a lot of other bands who like to retread retro often don't touch. Once more, it's a little like late '60s Pink Floyd (think second side of Atom Heart Mother with a bit of Alan Parsons thrown in perhaps (maybe I'm drawing that connection since Parsons worked on that particular Floyd album). But then it all turns into a much more modern sounding piece with all sorts of unexpected guitar soloing that sounds like it's about to take over the song, yet it works brilliantly.

That more modern flavor is the backbone to such fantastic tunes as "Head Gone Vertical" where distorted drums work smoothly with the sweet vocals, and the minimalist "It Fell Out of My Head" that barely rises above a whisper. Again, this is music that asks to be sat down and listened to and experienced. If one takes the time to do this, then the rewards are immeasurable. Getting Into Sinking is a multi-layered experience that brings about something new every time you play it.

I can't imagine AM/FM not being successful. This is the strange kind of band that would stand out no matter what they were doing. A lot of that is due to the fact that they're making music that touches not only on some of the more esoteric past influences, but also generates an entirely new sound that is captivating. I get to listen to a lot of what is often termed "pop rock", but this album is definitely the definition of everything great that that term means to me. Getting Into Sinking should rightfully go down as an indie pop classic.

This book offers a poignant and jarring reminder not just of the resilience of the human spirit, but also of its ability to seek solace in the materiality of one's present.

Marcelino Truong launched his autobiographical account of growing up in Saigon during the Vietnam War with the acclaimed graphic novel Such a Lovely Little War: Saigon 1961-63, originally published in French in 2012 and in English translation in 2016. That book concluded with his family's permanent relocation to London, England, as the chaos and bloodshed back home intensified.

Now Truong continues the tale with Saigon Calling: London 1963-75 (originally published in French in 2015), which follows the experiences of his family after they seek refuge in Europe. It offers a poignant illustration of what life was like for a family of refugees from the war, and from the perspective of young children (granted, Truong's family were a privileged and upper class set of refugees, well-connected with South Vietnamese and European elites). While relatives and friends struggle to survive amid the bombs and street warfare of Vietnam, the displaced narrator and his siblings find their attention consumed by the latest fashion and music trends in London. The book offers a poignant and jarring reminder not just of the resilience of the human spirit, but also of its ability to seek solace in the materiality of one's present.

Keep reading... Show less

The World of Captain Beefheart: An Interview with Gary Lucas and Nona Hendryx

Gary Lucas and Nona Hendryx (photo © Michael DelSol courtesy of Howlin' Wuelf Media)

Guitarist and band leader Gary Lucas and veteran vocalist Nona Hendryx pay tribute to one of rock's originals in this interview with PopMatters.

From the opening bars of "Suction Prints", we knew we had entered The World of Captain Beefheart and that was exactly where we wanted to be. There it was, that unmistakable fast 'n bulbous sound, the sudden shifts of meter and tempo, the slithery and stinging slide guitar in tandem with propulsive bass, the polyrhythmic drumming giving the music a swing unlike any other rock band.

Keep reading... Show less

From Haircut 100 to his own modern pop stylings, Nick Heyward is loving this new phase of his career, experimenting with genre with the giddy glee of a true pop music nerd.

In 1982, Nick Heyward was a major star in the UK.

As the leader of pop sensations Haircut 100, he found himself loved by every teenage girl in the land. It's easy to see why, as Haircut 100 were a group of chaps so wholesome, they could have stepped from the pages of Lisa Simpson's "Non-Threatening Boys" magazine. They resembled a Benetton knitwear advert and played a type of quirky, pop-funk that propelled them into every transistor radio in Great Britain.

Keep reading... Show less

Blending a dazzling array of musical influences and directions for more than two decades now, Thievery Corporation have come to represent one of the 21st century's boldest bands in both genre-blending style and lyrical impact.

The Halloween season is in full effect on this crisp Sunday evening in San Francisco that precedes All Hallows Eve by two days. With the traditional holiday falling on a Tuesday, music fans are out for as much costumed fun as they can get as evidenced by the costumed revelers here at the Masonic in the Nob Hill area. Thievery Corporation is in town, and the Bay Area "thieves" as the band's fans are known are ready to let it all hang out with one of the few bands in the music industry that isn't shy on telling listeners the truth about what's going on in the world.

Keep reading... Show less

Despite the uninspired packaging in this complete series set, Friday Night Lights remains an outstanding TV show; one of the best in the current golden age of television.

There are few series that have earned such universal acclaim as Friday Night Lights (2006-2011). This show unreservedly deserves the praise -- and the well-earned Emmy. Ostensibly about a high school football team in Dillon, Texas—headed by a brand new coach—the series is more about community than sports. Though there's certainly plenty of football-related storylines, the heart of the show is the Taylor family, their personal relationships, and the relationships of those around them.

Keep reading... Show less
Pop Ten
Mixed Media
PM Picks

© 1999-2017 All rights reserved.
Popmatters is wholly independently owned and operated.