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 » 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
Starlight Mints
Drowaton
Barsuk

Rating: 9/10 ?


April 10, 2006
Attach no significance whatsoever to the name of Starlight Mints' third album, Drowaton. Though it sounds like a new over-the-counter sleep aid, it's really just a made-up word that has no apparent meaning, and if it does it's classified and only the four Mints - Allen Vest, Marian Love Nunez, Javier Gonzales and Andy Nunez - know what it is. To the rest of us, it's just a random mash-up of seemingly incongruous syllables connected together like Legos to create a reference point that'll get as few hits on Google as humanly possible - just as the Mints intended.

Given complete license to come up with a definition for myself, I like to think of Drowaton as an orchestral psych-pop dream world designed by M.C. Escher. Candy shops line treed streets that lead both nowhere and everywhere. Acid is not only legal, its consumption is encouraged and there are no side effects or nightmarishly bad trips, just wonderfully weird images bombarding your senses at all hours of the day. Odd animals rescued from the Island of Dr. Moreau roam the sidewalks, peacefully coexisting with man. And in the city square sits a band shell with a string quartet, backed by a horn section and Teenage Fanclub, playing some of the sweetest, most delightful music your ears have ever heard. Fuck Utopia; give me Drowaton.

Perfect in almost every way, Drowaton is a surrealistic orgy of sound that starts in the morning and carries on well into the wee hours of the night. From the effusive, horn-swaddled opener "Pumpkin," with its bright melody, star-spangled guitars and elephant-walking bass, to the ornately appointed, bittersweet chamber pop of the string-laden finale "Sidewalk," Drowaton is a flood of instrumentation contained by the sturdy levees of the Starlight Mints' fully realized arrangements.

With a symphonic majesty, Drowaton is all primary colors and pinwheels. A chorus of whistles and waltzing piano and acoustic guitar greet you like Willy Wonka in the quirky, helium-filled pop balloon "Torts," complete with castanets and blocky drumming. As it flies off, "What's Inside Of Me" comes rushing in with piano that throws open the doors of a stately mansion, jumps on the Victorian furniture and stomps around the house with unabashed glee. Fun as hell and filled with more energy than first graders at recess, "What's Inside Of Me" has a vibrancy that sets it on a higher plane than the rest of Drowaton, but there's plenty of magic to go around.

The instrumental "Rhino Stomp" is just that: a rhino stomp. Working in concert, the horns, the bass, the strings all move as one entity, marching with all the power of an army. And Brent Williams' violin trills nervously, like angry birds chattering at mastodons. It sounds like a John Williams score to Jurassic Park as performed by an all-star lineup of Elephant 6 refugees, and it sets the stage for the rich opulence of "Seventeen Devils," with its intricate acoustic melody and vertiginous, sweeping strings. Touched up with a dash of Bowie-style glam-rock, "Seventeen Devils" has a pained smile to it, like a geisha who's in love but can't quit the life she's chosen. In the sparsely acoustic "The Killer," Vest sings of a murderer walking into a killer's home and making himself at home, and though it's nonsensical, without any linear story to it, you can imagine a lawless world of quiet violence that's entirely made up of socio-paths who move through each others' homes and streets in intractable trances. It bleeds into the infectious, raucous "Eyes Of The Night," which sounds a little like Combat Rock-era Clash as played by the London Philharmonic. At the beginning, Vest asks, "Who's cooking monsters in the kitchen?" The answer is the Starlight Mints, and they're ready to eat.

"Labor Omnia Vincet" is the state motto for Oklahoma. Translated, the Latin phrase means "Labor conquers all things." The Mints take that work ethic to heart, laboring in the studio to get every detail just right - word has it that it took them a whole two months to edit the drums alone. But considering the state is home to both Wayne Coyne and this combo of pop misfits, I wonder if "Birthplace of imagination" might be a more accurate moniker. Executed with equal parts precision and grace, and subtlety and bombast, Drowaton is an early challenger for album of the year. It's Eric Matthews on steroids. It's the Zombies gone post-punk. It's more joyous than Elf Power, with tighter playing and smarter studio tricks. Yes, the Starlight Mints have a formula. And yes, they've been working on it for a while. But now they've got it down pat and they are willing to bring something new to every one of their sonic experiences. Whatever you want to call it, Drowaton is as close to an orchestral pop masterpiece as you're going to get.

Reviewed by Peter Lindblad
Peter Lindblad lives in Appleton, Wis., and bleeds green and gold just like all the Packer fan nutjobs in the area. He does draw the line at wearing blocks of chedder on his head, or any other body parts for that matter, though. His professional career has taken weird twists and turns that have led him to his current position as an editor at a coin magazine. He hopes his stay there will be a short one. Before that, he worked as an associate editor at a log home magazine. To anyone that will listen, he\'ll swear that Shiner was one of the greatest rock bands to ever walk the earth. Yet he also has much love for Superchunk, Spoon, DJ Shadow, Swervedriver, Wilco, Fugazi, Jawbox, ... And You Will Know Us By The Trail Of Dead, Queens Of The Stone Age, and Modest Mouse, among others.

See other reviews by Peter Lindblad

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