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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
Wooden Wand
James & the Quiet
Ecstatic Peace

Rating: 6.4/10 ?


September 6, 2007
James Jackson Toth has been circulating with the likes of Wooden Wand & The Vanishing Voice, groups that, with much pride, anachronistically state their "psychedelic" affections. The folks at Ecstatic Peace seem to have irked Toth a bit too, so much so that he set out wanting to make "an un-weird record" on purpose, and to be clear Toth's idea of an un-weird record though is far from normal "folk" or "country."

With Lee Ronaldo from Sonic Youth manning the knobs and picking up electric guitar duties, James & the Quiet maintains a healthy noir sound throughout its duration. "We Must Also Love the Thieves," the album's fifth track, ambles along at a turtle's pace but manages to do so rhythmically, its drum rolls and brittle guitar sound lending it the cadence of a power ballad, slowed down and unplugged, and without a hint of any showy guitar work either. Toth pushes the lyrics right out in the foreground, where they stand on their own; "We must also love the thieves/ And we must also love the liars/ Because some truth can be found in these."

In keeping with the noir theme, James & the Quiet's lyrics often have a dark, Leonard Cohen-esque feel to them, the words often providing a unique picture and taking precedence over the melody. "Blessed Damnation" employs a deliberate rhythm to communicate its big words, the lyrics at times seeming to be bursting out of the song. "I'm feeling like a new thing which rattles with death," sings Toth, his delivery full of lyrics that are occasionally a bit complex for the context but often quite thought provoking, sometimes to a fault.

In the album's ninth position is its title track, with a rambling narrative chorus line discussing the "Shame, shame, shame of love." Like most of James & the Quiet, the title track's verses seem chock-full of interesting images that often stay a bit detached from the song itself. With its folkier, "un-weird" record, Wooden Wand has unmasked the verses and pushed them to the front of the mix.

James & the Quiet should do well to serve as an example for any novice drug users or bedroom songwriters contemplating an easy, phone-it-in adventure into America's rural art form. Wooden Wand's foray away from the weird in the world of un-psychedelic music shows that folk music's complexities require a different songwriting skill set than pop music. James Toth's lyrics often stand so brashly on their own as images that they obfuscate the cohesive meaning of the songs. James & the Quiet is saved from batting below .500 by the simple fact that, on occasion, Toth manages to focus on an idea, as in "We Must Also Love the Thieves," and make something of it, but, more often than not, the lyrics stay far from any comprehensibility. The next time Wooden Wand winds up for a folky, "un-weird" record, Toth should push his lyrics more toward a narrative with simpler sentiments, and maybe a bit lower in the mix as well.

Reviewed by Jeff McMahon
No biographical information is currently available.

See other reviews by Jeff McMahon

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