Thursday, March 31, 2011

For a Quarter - Part 3

I’ve been revisiting my stack of $.25 Great Escape purchases and, for the most part, it’s been a fun ride. This time around The Wrens’ third album, The Meadowlands, has been the one catching my repeat listen ear. Here’s a bit as to why…

I’m not really sure how I first heard (of) the Wrens, but they’re not one of your more well known indie rock bands (at least not in my “circles”), yet they’ve been around for more than twenty years and have a whopping three albums (plus a scattering of singles) to show for it. In fact, a bit of a joke on their official site seems to point to this with the motto: Keeping folks waiting…since 1989.

In my opinion, everything I’ve heard has been well worth the wait and it is surprising that these guys aren’t better known on a broader circuit, though my understanding is that they do tour somewhat frequently and are supposed to be an amazing live show.

Could you do this jump? I didn't think so...

Anyway, the point is…The Meadowlands is a really great album. To sum it all up, even though this album came out in 2003, this is old school 90s indie rock the way we all love to remember it. To broaden that out a bit, this is sort of a loose, lo-fi blend between Archers of Loaf and some random, faceless band you might hear on the OC (you know, those emotionally "uplifting" songs that get you caught up in the moment of the show but you can't like it 'cos you know that band isn't "legit"), with a bit of California mellow and the obligatory (for the past 10 or so years) Death Cab for Cutie thrown in for good measure. So basically it’s catchy, but with an unconventional raw quality that gives these 13 songs a bit of extra grit.

There’s actually quite a bit going on here, and each song is a unique adventure in and of itself. The magic is found in layers, with multiple guitar, keyboard and vocal parts creating a canopy of sound that can be enjoyed as a whole or dissected directly for that more personal listening experience. There are false starts, cryptic, off key intros, tempo and time signature changes, sonic waves, bleeps, faux equipment malfunctions and even crickets thrown in to further enhance the music, which makes the entire album that much more exciting, bringing cohesiveness to a rather diverse set of tunes.

However, the real key here is the performance delivery, which is more than the casual precision or the overall sum of the many parts, but the absolute joy that these guys receive in making their music in their way and in their time. Ultimately, it’s this joy that makes the Wrens and specifically The Meadowlands such a pleasing and infectious success. Don’t believe me? Check out their live take on Hopeless, and let the music do the talkin’.

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