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LITERATURE

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

MUSIC

 » 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]

MUSIC

 » 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
»Deerhunter
Halcyon Digest
4AD
No Age - Everything in Between
»No Age
Everything in Between
Sub Pop
Robyn - Body Talk Pt. 1/ Body Talk Pt. 2
»Robyn
Body Talk Pt. 1/ Body Talk Pt. 2
Konichiwa
The Walkmen - Lisbon
»The Walkmen
Lisbon
Fat Possum
Pleasant Grove
The Art of Leaving
Badman Recording Co.

Rating: 6/10 ?


October 1, 2004
The name Pleasant Grove is deceptively innocuous. Sounding like a small, tucked away suburb or a remodeled residential community, there is an air of the good life, buoyed by the status quo. Housing a similar aesthetic, The Art of Leaving has a quiet, pleasant, unaffected exterior, but reminds you that a perfect appearance is often marred by cracks.

The Art of Leaving goes through several movements, delving into different musical types and moods, but stays within a similar soundscape. With the lingering, muted tone of Bedhead in constant comparison, touchstones of the Police, Sigur Ros, Tom Waits, Low, and the Velvet Underground find their way to the forefront in different songs. As widely varied as some of these associations are, they mingle with the hazy, subdued and atmospheric country feel that unites the album.

If Gram Parsons and the Kadane brothers were all available for a slow afternoon get-together, Pleasant Grove would be of a similar mindset, but somehow more generic. While their efforts are nice enough, they do seem slightly run-of-the-mill, and their building, sometimes stagnant pace leads to occasional restlessness.

That said, when they get it right, they truly do. "Impossible" begins as though from an entirely different album, with a hollow, loping electronic texture that flourishes to a lush and plaintive apex. It cries out to skies that are almost assuredly and beautifully empty - comfortingly disappointing - and enters that theme into the album's lexicon.

"Every Heart is a Meal" emulates the strained go-go music played behind beat poetry. While there are no lightly tapped bongos or starkly profound statements, you can feel them as the track begins. Then, it speeds up with crashing drums and takes flight toward those same empty skies, breaking with fate and finding a more optimistic route.

Their most passionate moments are definitely their best, but conversely, they find urgency within the most quiet corners: the tracks akin to sweetly crooned lullabies are often their most poignant. Whether in the dusty, disenchanted country of "Only a Mountain," the Lou Reed inspired, bleak and laid-back "We Made Our Way," or the lovely yawn of "Commander Whatever," the pitch-perfect harmonies and dulcet murmurs so preciously employed represent serene, affecting highlights.

Words relay the disbelief that precedes the truth of betrayal. There is beauty within the initial, defensive memory, which is followed ever-so-closely by the bitter echo of reality. Without even a change of phrase, we feel the sentiment shift, and we know that all context has changed. From this, we gather The Art of Leaving's greatest achievement: In all its lamenting, there is a realization that things change in sudden bounds; even in the darkest moments, The Art of Leaving is never broken, knowing that things will swing up again in due time. A languid pace, be it in mourning or leisure, is met with beauty throughout.

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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