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[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.
[12.24.2010 by The LAS Staff]


 » 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
Archer Prewitt
Thrill Jockey Records

Rating: 8.5/10 ?

March 8, 2005
It's a fact that many reactions to Wilderness have alluded to, but none have outright said: Archer Prewitt is not a great songwriter. In fact, he sinks into a number of patterns on Wilderness that would regularly send me railing against an album; hooks elude, and riffs even more so, with each individual instrument dissolving into one ill-defined, pleasant mass. The semantics overwhelm the syntax, leaving the listener with a host of gorgeous images and impressions, but no structured relationship between these ecstatic visions.

And yet, I haven't been able to peel myself away from Wilderness. Perhaps it's the challenge of eventually "getting it," of assimilating the exuberant handclap/hand percussion coda in "Way of the Sun," the punchy, accosting acoustic guitar-driven refrain in "Judy, Judy," and the vibes/Neil Young harmonica bridge (a sharp aestheticism of desolation if I've ever heard one) in "Go Away" into the unified narrative that simply must exist beneath such sublime melodic flourishes. Perhaps it's the joy of hearing pop songs that don't feel the constant burden to remind me that they're pop songs. Perhaps it's a self-congratulatory impulse that kicks in when sticking with a piece of art that doesn't immediately throw me a bone.

The first time through, echoes of Jim O'Rourke's Insignificance hounded me, growing louder and louder with each successive track. As a surface-level point of comparison, O'Rourke's Bacharachian fountainhead works, as both albums sport a similar aesthetic shell - thoroughly unhip parents' record collection soft rock married to the intensely urbane stylings that have dominated the Chicago scene for the last decade (even though O'Rourke had moved to New York by the time he put out Insignificance, his Windy City roots still prevailed). The comparison even holds water insofar as both men are not traditional Beatles/Beach Boys popsters.

Likeness breaks down, however, when taking into account the challenging architecture of Prewitt's tunes. Structurally, Wilderness bears a greater resemblance to the condensed prog of Todd Rundgren's mid-'70s efforts, but whereas Rundgren's sheer ridiculousness made his screwy songwriting a bit more viable, Prewitt's sincere demeanor renders his unpoppy pop music all the more puzzling. His songs are, ultimately, wholly his own, for better and for worse.

I submit that Wilderness's saving grace lies somewhere betweens Prewitt's subcutaneous individuality and its pacing. Though the songs eschew familiar structures, their triumphant, readily accessible moments occur with surprising frequency; multiple hooks litter the lengthier compositions, and the shorter pieces usually contain at least two winsome passages.

Were the album's high points spaced further apart, it would stand as just another good parts/bad whole bust; their closer proximity and relatively quick succession instead allows the more forgettable passages to function as a sort of amplifying device, making Prewitt's numerous instances of transcendence all the more satisfying. Granted, it's a hell of a roundabout way to mold a successful album, but it's a great relief to grant this artist his chosen method of treatment and devote your time instead to working through and finding enjoyment in his final product.

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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