Music

Jimm McIver & The Boxes: Polaroid Angel

Gary Glauber

Jimm Mciver & the Boxes

Polaroid Angel

Label: Ptarmigan
US Release Date: 2002-06-28
UK Release Date: Available as import
Amazon
iTunes

The debut effort of singer/songwriter/guitarist Jimm McIver (pronounced McKeever) is a pleasant collection of aural fun that points up the many different facets of McIver's musical persona. Such diverse offerings might likely beg a question of tighter focus from some major label's A&R department. Thankfully, Seattle's Ptarmigan doesn't quibble over the wide range of styles presented here -- you get the full smorgasbord. Still it leaves the careful listener wondering which musical roads McIver will follow in the long term.

What's most evident is the man's undeniable talent -- he crafts intelligent songs that draw on any number of solid musical references and makes the results stand out. This music stands up well to repeated listens. In fact, that's when the real charm manages to make itself known. Play Polaroid Angel often and you'll hear what I mean.

McIver is aided in this effort by "The Boxes" -- Casey Allen on bass guitar, Mark Guenther on percussion (he also helped master and engineer), Walt Singleman on upright bass, Jed Jedrzjewski on lead guitar, Jim Keller on guitar, and Tom Morrison on keyboards. These fine musicians reap the benefits of talented clean production and engineering from the Conrad Uno (Presidents of the United States of America, Ken Stringfellow, Minus 5).

Piano leads into the bass and guitar of the catchy first selection "Paula's Room", a sweet tale of neighborly stalking/fantasizing about the unknown downstairs neighbor and her room: "I got a place above Paula's place / And she doesn't know me by name of face / But if I hang a mirror off the balcony / I can almost see in Paula's room / It's somewhere that I've never been but I plan to go".

Another bit of melodic fun is the infectious "Candybar", declaring silly and humble needs en route to freedom: "I don't really need anyone / And I'm leaving as soon as my laundry's done / And all that I want is a candybar / It tastes better in that sweater she has on".

McIver is capable of great drama in his vocal deliveries. He opts for old-fashioned crooner in the retro-bluesy ballad of "Years From Now", wherein he contemplates a variety of matters: "Can we serenade her silly with some sweet forgotten tunes in the night / Side by side, like two lonely sequins in the burned-out ballroom of my pride / And you'll wonder years from now why you worried so anyhow".

He works his way from subtle to over-the-top vocal styles in the piano ballad "Mr. Fahrenheit". Here and in the wonderful "Carousel", I'm reminded a bit of Canada's charismatic Hawksley Workman, particularly in the sort of direct Brechtian way the music is put across. The vocals are all high drama in the verses, offset by the realization of the soft chorus that declares: "It may be the underwear I'm wearing are a dead man's / I shop too much at thrift stores / And maybe the carousel I'm on with you is haunted / By someone else I wanted".

At times, McIver's writing reminds one of Squeeze's Tilbrook/Difford. This similarity is most obvious in the melodic payoff of the chorus of "Impossible", a bit of pride from a former fuck-up to a religious woman friend. When he sings "I had a dream that it all came down to you and me on a silver cloud", I guarantee you'll think Squeeze.

While the winning melodies might be enough to recommend McIver to new listeners, I also like his skewed sense of lyrical whimsy. Take for example "Renee", wherein McIver pens an ode to a special stranger with "three Es in her name" and basically encapsulates her sad life succinctly in an offhanded manner: "Did I tell you she's dead? / Took a foul ball in the head / In the newspaper that I read / It said 'she should have brought her glove'".

Baseball imagery finds its way into other songs here as well. Look at this from "The Devil is Beating his Wife": "And now the count is full and the sacks are drunk / We play the sky to pull and throw him all soft junk away". Also prominent in McIver's lyrics are images of devils ("The Devil Proper") and aliens ("Spaceship Jane"), though there's even a reference to Jim Croce as well ("Austin").

Songs that were written as a group here include "Bright Red" (great keyboard work enhancing another powerful vocal performance) and the "Sunny Day" which espouses the simple pleasures of such an occasion alongside a great synth keyboard middle lead.

There are fifteen tracks in all, an ample amount of pop music to go around (the hidden track is titled "Carouselathustra") and lyrics that aim more for fun than the profound. This is not music to change the world; rather it's a fine showcase of McIver's songwriting ability along with his talent of bringing energy and mood to vocalizations. If you like a variety of strong melodic pop that grows better over time, you can't go wrong with this debut collection.

Music


Books


Film


Recent
Books

How the Template for Modern Combat Journalism Developed

The superbly researched Journalism and the Russo-Japanese War tells readers how Japan pioneered modern techniques of propaganda and censorship in the Russo-Japanese War.

Film

From Horrifying Comedy to Darkly Funny Horror: Bob Clark Films

What if I told you that the director of one of the most heartwarming and beloved Christmas movies of all time is the same director as probably the most terrifying and disturbing yuletide horror films of all time?

Music

The 50 Best Songs of 2007

Journey back 13 years to a stellar year for Rihanna, M.I.A., Arcade Fire, and Kanye West. From hip-hop to indie rock and everywhere in between, PopMatters picks the best 50 songs of 2007.

Music

'Modern' Is the Pinnacle of Post-Comeback Buzzcocks' Records

Presented as part of the new Buzzcocks' box-set, Sell You Everything, Modern showed a band that wasn't interested in just repeating itself or playing to nostalgia.

Music

​Nearly 50 and Nearly Unplugged: 'ChangesNowBowie' Is a Glimpse Into a Brilliant Mind

Nine tracks, recorded by the BBC in 1996 show David Bowie in a relaxed and playful mood. ChangesNowBowie is a glimpse into a brilliant mind.

Music

Reaching for the Sky: An Interview with Singer-Songwriter Bruce Sudano

How did Bruce Sudano become a superhero? PopMatters has the answer as Sudano celebrates the release of Spirals and reflects on his career from Brooklyn Dreams to Broadway.

Music

Inventions Conjure Mystery and Hope with the Intensely Creative 'Continuous Portrait'

Instrumental duo Matthew Robert Cooper (Eluvium) and Mark T. Smith (Explosions in the Sky) release their first album in five years as Inventions. Continuous Portrait is both sonically thrilling and oddly soothing.

Music

Esperanza Spalding and Fred Hersch Are 'Live at the Village Vanguard' to Raise Money for Musicians

Esperanza Spalding and Fred Hersch release a live recording from a 2018 show to raise money for a good cause: other jazz musicians.

Music

Lady Gaga's 'Chromatica' Hides Its True Intentions Behind Dancefloor Exuberance

Lady Gaga's Chromatica is the most lively and consistent record she's made since Born This Way, embracing everything great about her dance-pop early days and giving it a fresh twist.

Love in the Time of Coronavirus

Street Art As Sprayed Solidarity: Global Corona Graffiti

COVID-19-related street art functions as a vehicle for political critique and social engagement. It offers a form of global solidarity in a time of crisis.

Music

Gretchen Peters Honors Mickey Newbury With "The Sailor" and New Album (premiere + interview)

Gretchen Peters' latest album, The Night You Wrote That Song: The Songs of Mickey Newbury, celebrates one of American songwriting's most underappreciated artists. Hear Peters' new single "The Sailor" as she talks about her latest project.

Music

Okkyung Lee Goes From Classical to Noise on the Stellar 'Yeo-Neun'

Cellist Okkyung Lee walks a fine line between classical and noise on the splendid, minimalist excursion Yeo-Neun.

Reviews
Collapse Expand Reviews

Features
Collapse Expand Features
PM Picks
Collapse Expand Pm Picks

© 1999-2020 PopMatters.com. All rights reserved.
PopMatters is wholly independent, women-owned and operated.