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Feature Crush: C.D. on Songs, 02/19/10

February 19, 2010

“Clever Cleaver” – Pray for Polanski
This track has an odd, slightly hypnotic feel that comes into play immediately. Pray for Polanski never gives the listener their complete bearings yet still guides us through the swirling mists of whatever weird world that exists in “Clever Cleaver.”
The hypnotic state is brought on largely by the dichotomy of Anne Warnock’s vocal performance. In the verses, it sounds as if she is singing to herself in her sleep, airily breathing out rapid-yet-smooth phrases that read like the long answers in a particularly challenging crossword puzzle. We know she must be dreaming, because she is singing with herself. Her harmonies are dead on, which is good because bad harmonies when harmonizing with yourself means… well you know.
The song ramps up in the chorus, with Warnock staying half asleep, half fully alert, almost to the point of being frantic. One voice stays calm and the other urgently reaches to the upper registers of the melody, eschewing the earlier breath quality for full throttle. The circling and intertwining performances really bring this track home, sticking it well into your head for moments both waking and dreaming.
“Pistol and Passport” – It’s From the Sky
Travelling light has its advantages, provided you can get past the pesky guards with your pistol. The song, and by extension, the band never seem to stop travelling. For the most part, “Pistols and Passports” is like the Tasmanian Devil, spinning around and refusing to slow down until it’s damned good and ready.
When it is damned good and ready (read: the chorus), It’s From the Sky transforms into a more luxuriant sound. They’re still hurrying us around, mind you, insisting we “Get in your car,” but they’re almost patiently waiting for us to catch up and maybe grab hold of a running board or hood ornament before they take off again, fueled by an energetic guitar part and effervescent drum track that knows when to explode and when to simmer for the good of the dynamic.
It almost seems as if any part of this song that is not the chorus moves almost too fast to latch onto. This may be the function of the song’s strong and catchy chorus part. IFTS shows a good cruising speed in the chorus, and this will be where most listeners find solid ground in an otherwise turbulent track.

“It’s So Groovy When You Use ESP” – Hallelujah the Hills
Some songs don’t really move or go anywhere. Others run around in circles or back and forth in some two-dimensional sense that is fun to watch for a while but nowhere you’d really want to stay. Then there’s “It’s So Groovy When You Use ESP,” which manages to sound ridiculously textured while not forcing an army of sounds into the arrangement.
On paper, this song sounds like it should have a deceptively simple arrangement. The chord progression is simple and probably already programmed into your head if you have ever played an instrument. The vocal melody is simple and well-stated, and the auxiliary instruments maintain a simple counterpoint of the melody. The auxiliary part is perfectly-executed. Often-times a mix will sound like “Hey! Here’s a cello!! We’re using a cello!!!” but HtH’s arrangement allows the instruments to sit in their proper places.
The vocals flow naturally, mostly following a A-A-B melody, with the “B” lilting gently up on the ends of the phrases, leaving us expectant of the next musical go-round with vocalist Ryan Walsh. The instruments carry on as if someone broke into the back room of the orchestra under the stage, where the deliciously well-used instruments are kept. And used well.

“Disabled Trains and Slow Hygienists” – Death and the Dance Machine
Yeah, yeah, yeah, Death and the Dance Machine is late for work again, and you’ll never guess why. For better or for worse, DATDM really make us feel the drawn out sense of their long trip to… somewhere. Furthermore, it sounds as if they are in absolutely no hurry.
The impatient will find the song maddening in its ability to draaaaawww things out as evidenced by the elongated annunciation of the word “hygienists,” that sounds less like a viable career for people who like playing with hooks and more like the band is saying “hiiiiiiii” to their friend Jenny.
Several elements of the song lend themselves to the feeling of vague tardiness. The guitar is just a bit out of tune, producing topsy-turvy full-bodied chords that make it sound as if the Novocaine is still wearing off, assuming your hygienist uses it. The song is brought along its loping way by a lurching drum part that sounds as if each drum remembers to sound itself at the last possible second before being late for the beat. And we must never, ever be late for the beat.
“You Ruined My Election” – Arletta

Here’s a Boston Band Crush long distance dedication from “Martha” to “Scott,” and it comes to us from the five-piece band Arletta, who can still fit on a twin bed despite their numbers.
Arletta kicks in with a vocal from [one of the four male members of the band] that sees the song through to the finale. The jangling chords and keening vocals will remind some of R.E.M., minus the mumbling and plus some youthful energy and a fist-pumping chorus that encourages all to sing along and beat their crash cymbals in rhythm.
This song does an admirable job of remaining articulate while basically surging with energy. The vocals carry and steer the track, but the power comes from a band moving together well and finally arriving at the finale, a pleasing place to finish and a bookend to the opening of the program.

Want to submit your band’s song to C.D. On Songs?
To be reviewed in a C.D. On Songs column:
  • Be a Boston-based band/artist.
  • Email a single mp3/m4a/etc. (or a download link to one) to cdonsongs (at) gmail (dot) com, with the subject line “C.D. on Songs” (DO NOT send us a bunch of songs and make us pick, we will ignore you). We require a file – not a streaming link.
  • Do tell us who is in your band and what they do.
  • Include album cover art if you have any. If you don’t, a band photo or logo is acceptable.
  • We will assume that we have your permission to make the song downloadable on Boston Band Crush (readers will want to hear it, after all).
  • If that’s not ok with you, say so and provide us with a link to the song on an embeddable player like ReverbNation – something we can include in the post (and not just link to).

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