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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
Greater California
Somber Wurlitzer
Earthling Records

Rating: 8/10 ?

October 1, 2004

Rightly titled, this album is indeed centered around the electric piano. The Wurlitzer serves as the mainstay and centerpiece of Greater California's songwriting; it colors every song and further enhances the airy 60s-rooted pop sentiment aimed for in Greater California's sound.

With smooth production and "left-alone" instrumentation, Somber Wurlitzer is an album full of songs that have been well tended to. Much attention has been paid to every instrument making up Greater California's subdued rock; the instruments work together to make good songs, rather than displaying a concentration on bawdy showmanship, needless guitar tinkering, overpowering rhythms, etc. - everything blends nicely together. Their psychedelic pop has a good momentum to it, and (Christ!) this is a good album.

Quiet, but playful and catchy, the first two songs are a good example of this pop-friendly momentum. The third song, "Looking In," slows down, but is, as well, expertly thought out and put together. The album captures you with its earthy guitars and slightly off-kilter rhythms, as the velvety hum of the vocals carries you along with it.

Reminiscent of Belle & Sebastian is "May Day's" melancholic cutesy-ness; its childlike drumbeat and piano playing takes a bit of a turn from the straightforward pop-rooted previous tracks. Lacking the cut and wit of Belle & Sebastian lyrics, however, Greater California plays it safer and more innocent, keeping in tone with their music, unapologetically, and rightly, not adding any "sinister" element.

"In Scarlet" is one of the few songs to turn aggressive in its banging of guitars and bittersweet harmonies; it tugs on both ends, moody in its passivity and rising temper tantrums. Building and breaking equally, it successfully refrains from indulging in either vice, and keeps things short and in perspective.

It closes satisfyingly, but finally on a somber note with "Portuguese Hall" and "Somber Wurlitzer." "Portuguese Hall" is one of the best songs on the album, having more fun with itself than its more introverted counterparts. A piano-driven instrumental, its drunkenly good piano line makes it a happily danceable song that is as well jazzed up further by trumpets. In contrast to the joyousness of the former, the closer is an acoustic, piano-soaring dreamy dirge that exhaustively collapses at its end, and rightly so. It has been quite an experience.

Reviewed by Abbie Amadio
The last we heard Abbie Amadio, a former contributor to LAS, was based in Milwaukee, Wisconsin.

See other reviews by Abbie Amadio



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