» 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.
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 » 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!
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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
Hem + Autumn Defense
Birds, Beasts & Flowers EP
Arena Rock Recording Co.

Rating: 8/10 ?

January 25, 2005
From A "Apple" to Z "Zebra," Baby's First Pop-up Book of Split EPs is a mixed effort at best. Usually, in the bulk of these attempted collaborations, bands function so separately that they rarely accomplish anything cohesive. Few split EPs are worth more than their weight in a good single or two, becoming more of a collector's item for rabid fans - and in the era of Peer to Peer track sharing, even this notion has become somewhat outdated, as you can snag your favorite singles without paying the sucker's sticker price.

Birds, Beasts & Flowers, a joint effort between Hem and the Autumn Defense, is one of the glistening exceptions - a crown jewel, inlaid to credit the title of Split EP. Though there are two separate, distinct bands pouring themselves into individual tracks, the six works shared between them work more splendidly as a whole.

There is a perfect image to complement the feel of Birds, Beasts & Flowers: it is like being gently awakened by the warmth of sunlight as it filters through your window. It is natural, subtle and sweetly comforting. There is nothing to jar or muss your gradual stirring, nothing harsh or out of place to begin your better days.

On its own, the band Hem recalls the dusty country charm and weightless electronic instrumentalism of, say, Nora O'Connor or Jenny Lewis mapping out a duet with Jimmy Lavelle - all is light, delicate and beautiful as it rolls along at its own pace. Autumn Defense borrows more from the latter influence - not to mention their oft-noted roots in Wilco - but melds seamlessly with Hem's efforts; the band creates soothing, organic textures to soften life's blows. Between the two groups, there are not so much separate tracks to be noted but feelings, hope and interconnection.

Beginning with Hem's "Half Acre," we are greeted with lovely, gracious vocals and the enveloping tenderness of banjo and piano. The track is later joined by Autumn Defense's "You Know Where I Live," a classic ballad shaped as a heartened harpsichord serenade. In Hem we find exquisite country maturity, and in Autumn Defense we find layers of orchestral, affecting instrumentation. The two halves merge in divine accord and deepen each other's attempts. They play well off of each other, so that for six tracks, we might have that willful suspension of disbelief that a split EP has a higher purpose. At least with Birds, Beasts & Flowers, we know this is true.

Reviewed by Sarah Peters
A former music editor and staff writer for LAS, Sarah Peters recently disappeared. Perhaps one day she will surface again, who knows.

See other reviews by Sarah Peters



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