Thursday, April 26, 2012

Dylan Marx, Reid Saw A Ghost

Sod’s Collection of Bitter Songs
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There are better songwriters and many better singers than Dylan Marx, but I have heard few better arrangers among current Bay Area artists.  The UC Santa Cruz-based artist’s debut release, the perhaps-too-modestly-named 6-track collection Sod’s Collection of Bitter Songs, showcases his skill at deceptively simple arrangements, which can sound grand but never once overpower the album’s backbone of stark, introspective folk.  The first minute of “Blue” could have been culled from the repertoire of any anti-folk singer-songwriter from New York, but its subtle elevation by melancholy woodwinds and cello brings it into post-For Emma Bon Iver territory while maintaining its alone-in-a-room hush.  “Stuck” is stuck (sorry) halfway between the country and the carnival, beginning with innocent banjo and spiraling into a slightly menacing, circus-ish outro.  Most simply and most effectively, “The Woods” turns a humble harmonica into a distant industrial siren.  Marx himself does not provide many particularly brilliant or quotable lines on this album, but this is not a detriment to the album--Sod’s Collection of Bitter Songs is a singer-songwriter album that feels like a full, immersive experience.
Mad Scary
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On their immensely promising debut EP, Fremont band Reid Saw A Ghost offer seven bite-sized songs that showcase their Epic Meal Time approach to punk rock, which chiefly entails throwing as much stuff as possible on top of a foundation of strutting punkaboogie.  Xylophones, synthesizers, organs--nothing is left on the kitchen counter in the brewing of this bizarre concoction.  Most bands of this sort intend to either make some sort of conceptual avant-garde statement or just have fun, and while Reid Saw A Ghost are clearly the latter even from a casual listen, their songs are too well-crafted and catchy, not to mention plain listenable, to be the product of simple tomfuckery.  This is pop music played with the gleeful, anything-goes madness of a free-for-all jam session, ultimately sounding less like party music than the musical equivalent of an actual party--people are making complete asses of themselves, everything is out of order, but the chaos screams nothing but good vibes.  

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