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Music Reviews

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The Walkmen - Lisbon
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Fat Possum
Your Anchor

Rating: 7.5/10 ?

September 1, 2008
Under the moniker Lackthereof, Danny Seim, of the indie rock outfit Menomena, has stepped out from behind the drum kit to continue his solo recording career as front man and, well, only man. With a staunch DIY ethic, Seim merges his own vocals and instrumentations into lush compositions, each layer creating a different dimension of himself. After a string of self-distributed albums, his seventh, 2004's Christian the Christian, was his first to be formally distributed by a label. Last month, Seim dropped his ninth full-length LP, Your Anchor, an album that conjures visions of the artist in some oceanside bungalow, jamming on his father's weathered guitar, singing out to the sea.

Much in the same vein as his fellow Portlander and that most prolific DIY proponent, Elliot Smith, Seim recorded and mixed the entirety of Your Anchor in his basement. His efforts yield a raw and unfinished sound fitting to the nautical theme he sets. Borrowing from lo-fi, folk and slowcore, Lackthereof bridges gaps across the indie rock spectrum, offering the vocal intonations of Dave Bazan and the experimental spirit of Animal Collective. What Seim achieves with his imprecise brand of musicianship are dreamy and sometimes haunting stories, tales that one can only imagine an old shipman recounting off the docks.

The repetitive mantra "The new year is the old year again," from the first track, "Chest Pass," opens Your Anchor on a note of perpetuity, a recognition that as time stretches, dramatic change often lacks. Pair this sentiment with moving lines of instrumentation and Seim gently evokes a sense of dissonance. In this way, he is able to establish two realms that co-exist. Similarly, throughout the album, he alternates between a twangy and jangly guitar, the former a plucky Hawaiian sound and the latter, something vaguely alt-country. At times, the realms mesh and at others, they stand alone. Siem is also talented at creating brilliant three-part harmonies; the airy tone of "Vacant Eyes" cuts through his distant backing vocals. It's a soothing (but not precious) thing to hear lower-register vocals reverberate, as Seim's do; often, he overlaps them, like waves unable to take turns crashing into the surf.

With Your Anchor as his vehicle, Seim, a seasoned drummer, deviates from traditional rock rhythms - "Choir Practice" offers the only consistently driving tempo found on the LP - and experimenting with these conventions undoubtedly works well within the album's concept. What doesn't work as well is the integration of the synthesizer, as heard on "Fire Trial," where the jarring digital sounds miss the mark and tend to break up the track's organic flow. Yet, on the whole, Seim's array of sound presents an agreeable palette. A cover of The National's "Fake Empire" brings the album to a close with more of a gale than a gust, but still no less powerful. The bass drum interjects the moving harmonies, juxtaposing the classic with the modern; arguably, this is Seim at his best.

Although it would be inaccurate to call Your Anchor a concept album, it is fair to conclude that Seim's thoroughly thematic effort helps to reimagine the idea of one. The beachy theme he explores is familiar territory, one that has been tried and done before, but what distinguishes the album is its experimental approach and ability to create an ambient landscape. Seim romanticizes time and place with strong imagery, thereby enriching his sonic and lyrical integrity. Though it is easy to become too fixated with the obvious nautical theme Seim sets, it's even easier to become swept away by his riptide.

Reviewed by Lara Longo
Lara Longo is a writer and photographer from Brooklyn, NY. In 1989, Lara received her first CD player and album, Appetite for Destruction; ever since, music is something she has fawned over, hated on, and played loudly. Her work has also appeared in Relix and New York Cool. Lara’s interests include sharks, European television, and the Hammond B3 organ.

See other reviews by Lara Longo



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