“It’s all too much / But sometimes it’s more than enough,”
Though the first few months were duds (why, Bruce Springsteen, why?!), 2009 is starting to turn into an exciting year for music. I’ve got a solid 10 top going so far that consists mostly of surprises. As in, records from bands I’d either written off before (The Horrors, Morrissey) or just never heard of at all (Pains of Being Pure at Heart). The latter designation is about to get an addition in the form of
Here’s the skinny, ninny: AZAR is one of the best albums of ’09. It’s twangy like a mellow Wilco, slow and jammy like Yo La Tengo, and Lawson’s got a soothing voice a la Matthew Caws of Nada Surf. The record has a warm immediacy. Tracks like “Ryan’s Song” or the four murky “Azar” themes that run throughout the album are intimate.
The first of the “Azars” penned by keyboardist Jeremy Sellers, “Azar One,” opens the record slowly, pulling in more notes as it builds. Evoking a sunrise with its slow/steady measuring and gorgeous orchestration, it perfectly sets the tempo for AZAR. It starts off rather electronic-based before more organic instrumentation – dig those cymbal swells – kicks in. In the first of many excellent transitions, the track segues into lead single “Ryan’s Song.” Lawson and violist/vocalist Karolyn Troupe harmonize pretty dang well over a driving beat and ethereal guitar/strings/keys. And of course, it transitions well into track three, “Okay.”
Putting the “orchestral” in orchestral indie pop, AZAR feels like a classical suite, right down to its revisited eponymous theme. The album flows graciously; this isn’t just a collection of songs bashed out over a few months. Yet at the same time, every song stands out. “Okay” is the rocker in defiance of the dreamy charm of “Ryan’s Song” and “Wetland’s Dancehall.” “Sun Belt” combines slowcore and jazz for a rebirth of cool effect. Horns color the triumphant late number “
Given how spacey the album gets at times, it’s a wonder