Monday, April 26, 2010

The 1900s

Envision a hybrid of the Moody Blues and the New Pornographers – who, by the way, we'll be featuring in next week's New Music Tuesdays with their release of Together – and you'll arrive at something sounding like The 1900s and their 2009 EP, Medium High. Featuring multiple lead vocalists fronting pop-heavy, hook-laden tunes like the New Pornographers and lush orchestrations and a bit of scaled-back psychadelia like the Moody Blues, The 1900s offer very listenable tracks including a nice range of instruments that don't overpower the senses.

The seven-piece, Chicago-based outfit is arguably led by singer/guitarist Edward Anderson, who fronts the group with a Justin Heyward-type approach, distributing the collection's seven tracks among a capable stable of musicians and singers, which round his medieval-sounding compositions into more accessible psych-pop constructions. He is most significantly aided in these efforts by singers Jeannie O’Toole and Caroline Donovan, who add much needed lift and colour to songs like "Collections" and "A Face I Know." Not only do O'Toole and Donovan harmonize nicely with each other and Anderson, but they help transform tracks such as "Making Love in the Summertime" from fairly aloof and wispy affairs you'd expect from Belle and Sebastian to something more akin to the work of The Essex Green and early era Rilo Kiley.

Album-opener "Collections" is probably the most intriguing of the collection, falling somewhere near an Our Time in Eden offering like "Stockton Gala Days" by Jamestown, New York's 10,000 Maniacs, featuring an acoustic guitar / piano foundation highlighted by violinist Kristina Dutton's string accompaniment. And if only the proceeding "When I Say Cohen" has a bit more percussion power, it could find a spot on heatseeker lists, with the co-lead vocals of Donovan and O'Toole giving voice to some interesting lyrical interplay such as the following:

"I've been in touched in places by very scary hands / If anyone should ask me, I'll tell them I don't know / I've been leaving all my clues like footprints in the snow"

But the track lays off the pedal a bit too frequently, and Anderson's Byrds-style Rickenbacker work leaves the number a little too hazy for it to find its footing.

The record's closing instrumental, "Gay Peace" is an interesting location to end-up with, with a neat guitar-piano-violin trio laying in a hypnotic vibe that has an almost countrified air for being essentially a chamber pop number. Unfortunately, at just 2:41, it leaves the listener wanting a little more, which may not be all that bad a way to end the collection. Hopefully The 1900s will return in not too long a time with a full-length offering to build on this, and its LP-length predecessor, Cold & Kind.

Come for: "Collections"
Stay for: "When I Say Cohen"
You'll be surprised by: "Gay Peace"

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