Sunday, October 28, 2007

West Indian Girl - 4th and Wall

This was unexpected. I've written before about being surprised how popular, in terms of comments and email, my music reviews have been, but I definitely did not expect to have music recommended to me by promoters on the basis of my reviews. When, therefore, just such a person recommended this album to me, I was skeptical. However, I gave the promotional track a listen, and was interested enough to check out the whole album.

Electronica and rock have enjoyed tenuous relationships in the past. I'm not exactly a music historian though, so in order to avoid doing any research, I'll just say that a long creative thread runs at least from Emerson, Lake, and Palmer through Madonna's "Ray of Light." It is a genre I enjoy, and though I no longer fall asleep to the Future Sounds of London, the formation of sound and art through digital means still speaks to this 21st century soul.

If in my last review I was complaining about how often mimicry passes as artistry, this album stands as a lesson to aspiring artists. You can work in a given style, but you need your own twist. Putting a twist on an old style for the sake of the twist is obnoxious (like Jet pretending to be the Rolling Stones), but when you do it as part of a coherent vision, like West Indian Girl is doing, it becomes worthwhile. While listening, I was trying to make comparisons, but winding up with absurdities in the process. Folksy Pink Floyd. The Shins meet U2. Perhaps it is best I am paid to be a doctor, and not a music reviewer. But it is true that I have not heard anything exactly like this crew before.

"To Die in LA," opens this album with a distant flute sound, but rapidly picks up, adding drums and synth until the singers (in their first clear words on the track) voice the listeners' own thoughts with a chorus of "here it comes." I'm not certain the lyrics on this particular track are meaningful. They aren't particularly important, as in most trip-hop, but they do get the album off to a fast paced start with a few cool vagaries. Even if I was rocking with the album, I wasn't truly impressed until the track "Solar Eyes," where electronic beeps and an acoustic guitar trade off without jarring the listener. It sounds impossible, but they manage to do it. Throughout the album, with transitions like that, the confidence with which the disparate sounds were melded struck me. Also, I admit (though it is no surprise to anyone familiar with my defense of Keane's first album) that I like songs with a tune. That's why X&Y didn't really do anything for me. But the tracks here are all hummable.

It's not a perfect album. The band struggles with ending their songs, dragging the otherwise strong "Sofia" on at least a minute more than truly necessary. And the lazy, psychedelic "All my Friends" will never rank in my favorite track list. Of course, the Goa-trance meets folk marriage here (there I go again) is bound to have some distinctive offspring, some more palatable than others. Still, there is quite enough to enjoy here, and this one is going to be the soundtrack to my commute for a while yet.


Alex said...

for the record I still envy your talent in verse.

Melora said...

Good words.