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Music Reviews

Screaming Females - Castle Talk
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Castle Talk
Don Giovanni
Trent Reznor & Atticus Ross - The Social Network [Original Soundtrack]
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The Social Network [Original Soundtrack]
The Null Corporation
Deerhunter - Halcyon Digest
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No Age - Everything in Between
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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
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Fat Possum
Trouble at Jinx Hotel
Alien8 Records

Rating: 8/10 ?

October 1, 2004
You were probably too busy tracking down the latest releases from The Shalibi Effect and Valley of the Giants to notice that fellow Godspeed You Black Emperor! offshoot, Molasses, was gearing up to release their fourth full-length. Don't worry, I won't fault you for letting your guard down - it hasn't exactly been a stellar year for Quebec's incestuous avant-pop scene, and with new projects popping up seemingly every week, keeping abreast of new developments has become a daunting task. Of course, now that you've started reading this review, you are aware that Molasses have put out a new platter of world-weary hymns, and you now have no excuse not to take note of this collection of creaky, slow-burning folk songs.

As you might expect, Trouble at Jinx Hotel isn't the product of a band sitting down and fine-tuning a handful of compositions as much as it is the work of fifteen friends getting together and improving around ringleader Scott Chernoff's skeletal acoustic plucking and front porch vocals. Remarkably, the flurry of detuned electric guitars, pianos, banjos, violins, and singing saws never eclipses any song's heart. Each instrument serves to embellish and accent Chernoff's stories, and every piece manages to make perfect sense; no portion of any arrangement feels like frivolous ornamentation or an attempt to mask feeble melody with contrived atmospherics.

If you were to evaluate Trouble at Jinx Hotel on a song-by-song basis, with no regard for the album as a gestalt, you could make a case that it's as good as anything slowcore giants Low or Bedhead ever released. Chernoff demonstrates an incredible knack for weaving a sturdy hook into every composition, and as I mentioned before, the arrangements are both logical and daring. However, when you engage with all ten songs in one sitting, a glaring flaw becomes strikingly obvious - Chernoff's deals in a dishearteningly limited melodic vocabulary. Though the instrumental variety is quite strong, it can't hide the fact that Chernoff croons almost every verse with the same swaying, time-worn cadence. The songs avoid blurring into one gigantic mess by virtue of their quality and their diverse backdrops, but the recycling of melodies severely blunts their impact as a unified body.

Trouble at Jinx Hotel still comes highly recommended, on the merits of its haunting otherworldliness and its airtight composition, but its structural monotony leaves it hanging just short of true greatness.

Reviewed by Phillip Buchan
A one-time music director at WUOG in Athens, Phillip is into college radio, literature, writing, buying records, going to shows, talking to friends, learning -- pretty much the same stuff that all of us priveledged, (pseudo?)intellectual Americans are into.

See other reviews by Phillip Buchan



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