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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
Oliver Future
Pax Futura

Rating: 8.7/10 ?

June 18, 2007
A few months ago an unsolicited compact disc arrived in my mail from an unfamiliar address in Eugene, Oregon (Route Canal Music, anyone?), and after dusting negative for anthrax I decided to check out the contents. The first thing that struck me was the quality of the CD packaging and sleeve design. This wasn't just some DIY job from someone's basement, way too polished for that. Artistic too, the cover a multihued painting of a multitude of eye-less human faces. The next thing that caught my own eyes was the band's name, Oliver Future, and the persuasive album title, Pax Futura. After trying to dig up dirt on the tell-all internet, I found myself woefully short of information on this outfit. Finally, I did what came naturally: I listened to the dang thing, and am thrilled that I did.

I have since learned that the band is originally from Austin, Texas, but has adopted Los Angeles as its new stomping ground. Oliver Future is fronted by the Lit brothers, Noah (vocals/guitar) and Josh (vocals/keyboard), and rounded out with Jesse Ingalls, Sam River and Jordan Richardson on bass, guitar and drums, respectively. Pax Futura is their sophomore album, and was produced by Brooklynite Adam Lasus, who was behind the boards on the breakout record from Clap Your Hands Say Yeah, and has worked with Yo La Tengo and Clem Snide; Pax Futura is the debut release of his newly formed Fireproof Recordings label. As I alluded to earlier, this album calls out "slick!" and the production values don't disappoint. Yet aside from all these hopeful indicators, what really makes this album an incredible spin are the vivid art-rock songs within, as colorful as the suggestive cover.

The album is intended as a mini-suite proclamation to the new Angelenos' city. According to Noah Lit, the band "felt like we had written a record stemming from our experiences and frustrations as we made our transition here." This stance is reflected brightly through the sheer diversity of the dozen songs - at turns soulful, gritty, tender, noisy, grating, beautiful - like the sprawling metropolis itself. Appropriately, the record opens with "The Many Things I am Aware Of," which is a lullaby of dreamy observations set to acoustic guitar and toy keyboard. Things change on a dime with the next track, "The Big Sleep," which scratches and claws its way through comically ominous ideas of a "world gone sane," while postulating "half the world is off making plans/ for when the levee is going to break/ the other half's still taking bets on you."

There is nary a poor song on this disc, and several warrant high praise. "Stranger than the Stranger" is the band's homesick confessional about being in a new world, set up as a Motown shaker with jubilant call and response vocals, bellowing lines "don't you know it's hard out here," and "take it easy/ you'll be alright/ thanks for the money." It captures the anxiety and excitement we all feel when we're uprooted, as does "Happiness Machine," another bopping ditty: "Oh how we've traveled far/ we're right back at the start/ So many backroad tears/ a brand new batch of scars."

Nothing sums up the essence of Oliver Future, and perhaps their mixed feelings about L.A., than the back to back dazzlers that close this suite. "Drowning Parade" is a soulful ballad that could be an Antony and the Johnsons outtake, with its smoky-lounge vocals, alto and tenor saxophones, and Wurlitzer piano. The gentle tune gives way to "The Slow Fast," filled with scraping guitar riffs, techno beats, and punk rock screams "It's a-a-a-l-l... o-o-o-n-n." This record is on alright: on point, and on its way to being one the better surprise releases of the year. To hear for yourself, simply do what I did and put Pax Futura on the stereo.

Reviewed by Ari Shapiro
A staff writer for LAS, Ari Shapiro mixes up pretty unique smoothies at XOOM in hot Tucson.

See other reviews by Ari Shapiro



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