Sunday, August 22, 2010

the sound of one band clapping

Most of us find it hard to hear new music without comparing it to something we're already familiar with. "This really reminds me of [insert awesome band whose obscurity makes you ultra-hip here]." I'd like to avoid this syndrome but I can't seem to, so why don't I just list some artists that came to mind while listening through If a Band Plays in the Woods... by Philistines Jr.: They Might Be Giants, The Flaming Lips, Eels, The Cure, Aphex Twin, Kraftwerk, Joy Division, Failure, Sigur Ros, Polyphonic Spree, New Order, Dntel, and more that I couldn't quite put my finger on. In case it didn't come across clearly, I'm saying this album has a ton of moods and shifts. The trick is putting it all together into something coherent and listenable. For the most part, that's what Philistines Jr. accomplish here.
One of the driving forces behind this band is Peter Katis, who has been building a solid reputation as a producer for acts like The National, Interpol, and Tokyo Police Club. Katis' ear for production is really what pulls this album's complex, multilayered tracks together. That's quite a feat when you're moving from a creepy string arrangement to a dramatic waltz ("Set List Title Cableguy") or an island groove to a driving dark rock anthem ("If I Did Nothing But Train for Two Years..."). These songs have more moods than Sybil but it all makes sense somehow. Take track 8, "Twenty Miles to NH," for example.

I have to draw one more comparison that I couldn't shake: somehow I was constantly reminded of Mull Historical Society. Remember them? Did anyone else actually listen to them? Here's a reminder or, perhaps more likely, an introduction:

Download Mull Historical Society - I Tried

Those guys were a little bit of alright. It might be a Scottish thing, but we can talk about that some other time.

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