Essential Non-Essentials, Final Round … for now
This is the last of the wisdoms I have for you. Go off into the world and do with it what you will, and always remember that knowledge is power and absolute power corrupts absolutely. The sad part is that the list only contained eight entries. I guess breadth isn’t really my strong point — I’m a depth kind of girl. So, lookie:
Augie March — Strange Bird
This Australian band has barely made it stateside — only one album, 2007’s Moo, You Bloody Choir is available on iTunes, and Amazon turns up mostly imports — but their albums are worth finding if you have the means. Moo may have captured the critics’ attention, but it’s Strange Bird, the previous album, that wins my oddball beauty competition. Assembled of band members ranging from literature lovers to trained jazz players, one might expect them to sound like another quirky, lit-inspired group, The Decemberists; Augie March’s songs, however, often have a mythic quality — never falling into camp, but not taking themselves too seriously, either.
The melodies of Strange Bird are fuzzy and nostalgic. The slower songs sound like lullabies half-forgotten, or lost battle hymns, and the faster tracks often play like rowdy, drunken pub songs. But despite the traditional bent that the song-writing sometimes takes, they never seem cliche or overly familiar. The melodies are fairly linear, deceptively simple; complexity comes in the arrangement of the instruments, building tension by adding layer after layer, until the songs come to a dizzying finish. Songwriter/lead-singer Glenn Richards also has a pretty impressive voice that moves easily between whispers and wails — although, I can’t for the life of me discern the lyrics through his mumbly enunciation. They’re most assuredly literary.
Download: Augie March — The Vineyard
And Honorable Mention:
Mia Doi Todd — The Golden State
Far from essential, but at least listen to a track for that voice. That rich, haunted, and completely devastating voice that quieted a New Orleans bar when she opened for The Folk Implosion several years ago (she also sang on their track “Chained to the Moon,” from One Part Lullaby). Her lyrics are too “tortured art student” for my tastes, and the mournful melodies are such a match for the voice that listening to more than one song might send someone into a spiraling depression. But this is a pretty song.
Download: Mia Doi Todd — The Growing Pains