» Full Dark, No Stars - Stephen King's new novella questions mankind's ability to trust others.
[02.21.2011 by Bridget Doyle]


 » The Top 30 Albums of 2010 - Fashionably, fabulously late, our favorite music (and believe me, there was a LOT) of 2010, the year that some have called the best year for music ever. And only some of those fools work here. Plenty of usual suspects, lots of ties and a few surprises that I won't spoil, including our unexpected #1.
[12.24.2010 by The LAS Staff]


 » Live: Surfer Blood/The Drums at Lincoln Hall, Chicago, IL - Remember when Weezer used to put together records that you could sing along to and rock out to? That's what Surfer Blood's show was like!
[11.04.2010 by Cory Tendering]

Music Reviews

Screaming Females - Castle Talk
»Screaming Females
Castle Talk
Don Giovanni
Trent Reznor & Atticus Ross - The Social Network [Original Soundtrack]
»Trent Reznor & Atticus Ross
The Social Network [Original Soundtrack]
The Null Corporation
Deerhunter - Halcyon Digest
Halcyon Digest
No Age - Everything in Between
»No Age
Everything in Between
Sub Pop
Robyn - Body Talk Pt. 1/ Body Talk Pt. 2
Body Talk Pt. 1/ Body Talk Pt. 2
The Walkmen - Lisbon
»The Walkmen
Fat Possum
Pale Young Gentleman
black forest (tra la la)
Science of Sound

Rating: 7/10 ?

November 21, 2008
It's no secret that the hereditary makeup of modern indie rock is becoming increasingly complicated, as many bands try to fuse classical instrumentation and folk music into their modern rock orchestras. Pale Young Gentlemen are no different, as their seven-piece band employs the conventional rock setup of guitar-bass-drums, and additionally has a full-time cellist as well as viola and violin players. This fusion of classical and modern instruments is just the beginning for the band, especially on their most recent album, black forest (tra la la). The Madison, Wisconsin-based band employs a French horn on "Shadows/Doorways" and "Wedding Guest," a harp on tracks "Marvelous Design" and "We Will Meet," a xylophone on tracks "Kettle Drum" and "Wedding Guest," and a Flute on "Kettle Drum" and "We Will Meet." The septet is lead by Michael Riesenauer (vocals, guitar, piano), with support from Brett Randall (bass), Mathew Riesenauer (percussion), Liz Weamer (cello), Beth Morgan (vocals, bell kit), Gwendolyn Miller (viola) and Derek Powell (violin).

On an initial pass the early highlight of the album is the back-to-back pairing of "The Crook of My Good Arm" and "Kettle Drum (I Left a Note)" near its mid-section. The former song is a fast-paced conglomeration of everything the band does well: arousing strings, passionate lyrics, and addictive percussion. On the latter, the xylophone and strings are very experimental (as is the melody), and they play an integral role early in the song. About halfway into "Kettle Drum" the song's tempo changes and takes the form of a more classical beat, complete with an extremely catchy cello riff; then, the more off-camber experimentation present early in the song returns, and serves as a magnificent outro as well. These are perhaps the album's best tracks, in so much as they do a commendable job of showcasing Pale Young Gentlemen's abilities at combining harmonic beats and experimental strings, the fusion of which can deliver a feast of unrestrained euphoria. The track that follows, "Shadows/Doorways," is a beautiful and timely instrumental between the front and back halves of the album that, in fact, makes one wonder why its tactics aren't employed more often.

"Our History" starts out the second half of the recording, and is upbeat and retrospective. The band's string instruments shine on this song, as do Riesenauer's engaging lyrics. The other gem of the second half of the disk is the penultimate "There Is a Place?" and its combination of elegant, swooping strings with simple yet catchy guitar and percussion. This track seems to define the band to a large extent -- when the ensemble of strings is highly developed, experimental and present in their music, the band's music is remarkably engaging, but when the strings are too generic and take a back-seat to other instruments or Riesenauer's lyrics, Pale Young Gentlemen don't seem to perform at the same alluring level.

Overall, black forest (tra la la) is one of those albums which grows in likeability the more you listen to it, as the charming sounds of many subtle instruments appear with more spins. The band is certainly engaging, and provides a good mix of classical, folk and rock music for those with eclectic tastes. With additional refinement, they could easily deliver a knock-out album.

Reviewed by Brian Christopher Jones
A student living in Scotland and working toward a PhD in law.

See other reviews by Brian Christopher Jones



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