Music

Sandro Perri: Tiny Mirrors

Perri's first album initially sounds like coffee shop fodder, but reveals itself to be nothing so timid and plain.


Sandro Perri

Tiny Mirrors

Label: Constellation
US Release Date: 2007-10-09
UK Release Date: 2007-09-24
Amazon
iTunes

Tiny Mirrors, Sandro Perri's first full-length release under his own name, could sound right at home coming out of the overhead speakers at Starbucks. It sounds, on first listen, pleasant and maybe even tame. Lucky for us, and for Perri, the album reveals itself to be something much more compelling than barista-numbing, coffee shop fodder. Surrounded by countless talented musicians, Perri uses Tiny Mirrors to not only reinvent himself as a singer-songwriter, but to make a record that sounds like a collective effort. The contrast between the band's intricate sound and Perri's subtle isolation as a front man make for a lush, solid record from front to back.

Before Tiny Mirrors, Sandro Perri was known primarily for his work under the moniker Polmo Polpo. The one record he released under that name, titled The Science of Breath, was an experiment in electronic instrumentation. The album was full of long movements, waxing and waning to create a sound that was beautiful, tidal. And while there is little in common sonically with that album, Perri has carried over his feel for texture and mood on Tiny Mirrors, opting instead for more organic elements, trombone, clarinet, lap steel, euphonium, to supply the many layers in these songs.

What makes the album seem initially simple is that the elements are so subtly interwoven. Even Perri's voice, always a high, faint warble, wafts into the songs rather than introducing itself with authority. The kick drum buried in the mix on opener "Family Tree" sets the barest of foundations on which Perri's lightly-plucked guitar, wafting pedal steel, and keys scant enough to evoke Bill Evans, come together to make a sound much fuller than their parts. It seems that each instrument here plays the bare minimum amount of notes, but when combined together, there isn't a hole to be found.

But no matter the work the musicians around him do, it is still Perri's burden to carry this record on his shoulders, and he delivers. His fragile interpretation of Fred Neil's "Everybody's Talkin'" renders the song as more heartbreaking than Harry Nilsson's version. Perri slows the song way down, leaving time for every line of the song to sink under your skin until you, just like Perri, feel isolated from everything going on around you.

There is also a solid variety to Tiny Mirrors. Though the instrumentation rarely changes, and the volume level is consistently hushed, the band manages to move through a number of genres. "Double Suicide", a standout track, is a fine touch of tropicalia. "The Mime" sounds like 60s pop folk. And "White Flag Blues", perhaps the best track on the record, manages to move from avant-garde folk into something far more soulful. It is his best vocal performance on the record, as he lets his voice lilt a few beats longer and, set against far-off guitar harmonics, the song becomes a microcosm for the juxtapositions in sound that run through the whole record.

Sometimes, though, the lush instrumentation isn't enough to make some of these songs run together. The combination of "The Mime" and "You're the One", which immediately follows "Everybody's Talkin'", sound formulaic and a little flat in comparison to the better material on the first half. Closer "Mirror Tree" is an instrumental track, and the closest he comes to sounding like Polmo Polpo here, but the quiet track pushes past subtle and into the realm of barely-there, making the album peter out more than it fades away.

But, with Tiny Mirrors Perri's move to singer-songwriter is a success. With earlier projects, he proved himself as a solid producer, but here he shows that he can be a performer too, and a convincing singer and front man. While it sounds like a coffee shop soundtrack with its calm surface, one hopes that Tiny Mirrors doesn't end up with such a fate. It is an album that demands more attention than that, and one that rewards the listener for taking the time.

6

Cover down, pray through: Bob Dylan's underrated, misunderstood "gospel years" are meticulously examined in this welcome new installment of his Bootleg series.

"How long can I listen to the lies of prejudice?
How long can I stay drunk on fear out in the wilderness?"
-- Bob Dylan, "When He Returns," 1979

Bob Dylan's career has been full of unpredictable left turns that have left fans confused, enthralled, enraged – sometimes all at once. At the 1965 Newport Folk Festival – accompanied by a pickup band featuring Mike Bloomfield and Al Kooper – he performed his first electric set, upsetting his folk base. His 1970 album Self Portrait is full of jazzy crooning and head-scratching covers. In 1978, his self-directed, four-hour film Renaldo and Clara was released, combining concert footage with surreal, often tedious dramatic scenes. Dylan seemed to thrive on testing the patience of his fans.

Keep reading... Show less
9
TV

Inane Political Discourse, or, Alan Partridge's Parody Politics

Publicity photo of Steve Coogan courtesy of Sky Consumer Comms

That the political class now finds itself relegated to accidental Alan Partridge territory along the with rest of the twits and twats that comprise English popular culture is meaningful, to say the least.

"I evolve, I don't…revolve."
-- Alan Partridge

Alan Partridge began as a gleeful media parody in the early '90s but thanks to Brexit he has evolved into a political one. In print and online, the hopelessly awkward radio DJ from Norwich, England, is used as an emblem for incompetent leadership and code word for inane political discourse.

Keep reading... Show less

The show is called Crazy Ex-Girlfriend largely because it spends time dismantling the structure that finds it easier to write women off as "crazy" than to offer them help or understanding.

In the latest episode of Crazy Ex-Girlfriend, the CW networks' highly acclaimed musical drama, the shows protagonist, Rebecca Bunch (Rachel Bloom), is at an all time low. Within the course of five episodes she has been left at the altar, cruelly lashed out at her friends, abandoned a promising new relationship, walked out of her job, had her murky mental health history exposed, slept with her ex boyfriend's ill father, and been forced to retreat to her notoriously prickly mother's (Tovah Feldshuh) uncaring guardianship. It's to the show's credit that none of this feels remotely ridiculous or emotionally manipulative.

Keep reading... Show less
9

Here comes another Kompakt Pop Ambient collection to make life just a little more bearable.

Another (extremely rough) year has come and gone, which means that the German electronic music label Kompakt gets to roll out their annual Total and Pop Ambient compilations for us all.

Keep reading... Show less
8

Winner of the 2017 Ameripolitan Music Award for Best Rockabilly Female stakes her claim with her band on accomplished new set.

Lara Hope & The Ark-Tones

Love You To Life

Label: Self-released
Release Date: 2017-08-11
Amazon
iTunes

Lara Hope and her band of roots rockin' country and rockabilly rabble rousers in the Ark-Tones have been the not so best kept secret of the Hudson Valley, New York music scene for awhile now.

Keep reading... Show less
8
Pop Ten
Mixed Media
PM Picks

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

rating-image