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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
Chad VanGaalen
Infiniheart
Sub Pop Records

Rating: 7.5/10 ?


September 7, 2005
The greatest compliment I can give to Chad VanGaalen's debut album, Infiniheart, is that it sounds like a record Kurt Cobain would have liked. If you've perused Kurt's infamous "Top 50 List," you've seen artists like Beat Happening and Leadbelly populating his roster of favorites, and Chad VanGaalen sounds especially good to kindred, conscious ears.

Infiniheart has an indomitable DIY spirit and an eclectic, meticulous view. Its striking sound resides somewhere between Calvin Johnson and Neil Young, and its science fictional, often fatalistic lyrics help VanGaalen resound like the anti-Capra. With spare acoustics and an existential mindset, this album is unflinching in its convictions and unrelenting in its depictions of escapism and blood.

Rife with contrast and irony, Infiniheart plays like a series of short stories or films, somehow interwoven to a common conclusion. Sounds of arrhythmic heartbeats lie as a pulse beneath many of the tracks, underscoring the basic necessity of life before lifestyle. At the moment of death for many of his characters - as heard in numerous tracks like "Clinically Dead", "After the Afterlife", "Kill Me In My Sleep", "Blood Machine" and "Red Blood" - comes new clarity about life, which only emphasizes the ruthlessness and injustice of their fate. Death is their relief from lifelessness and betrayal, but to escape they must make the ultimate sacrifice - be it by their own hand, a machine's or a lover's.

There are many layers to the words chosen here: as "Clinically Dead" coos, "Dream On" in regards to a brain dead patron, it sounds as much a threat as a beautiful retreat. Infiniheart is entirely concerned with the purgatory between a truly vibrant, decisive life and breathing in continuation but not purpose. For the most part, its subjects die before abandoning their poisonous inaction.

Bursts of optimism, when present, are still skewed, as witnessed in the surprisingly romantic "1000 Pound Eyelids" - which watches the life pass before it with fondness, but does so with guilt and finality - as well as the drug-induced, distracted pseudo-happiness of "Sunshine Snare Hits" and the unknowing, green denial of "Liquid and Light", which spits, "We are too young to follow you/so let's not believe it's true" - even though we know where such a young, defiant attitude eventually leads by way of its predecessors.

Yet ultimately, the darkest shades of death are eclipsed by the light of salvation. The only fully optimistic track, "Traffic", arrives fittingly at the end of the album to offer hope. In it, a whitebread father, with his suburban "super sterile" home and contented, unquestioning mind, is surely the next to die. As neatly wrapped groceries in the passenger's seat are certain to impact the man's windshield at the time of his death, he is reawakened in a moment and, shockingly, does not meet his demise. Whereas each of the other characters of Infiniheart - in past, present and future - had wasted their lives in sleep and self-inflicted depression, the hero of "Traffic" is given a second chance to evaluate his own complacency. Somewhere beyond this scene, the ghosts of the previous tracks howl with reflective warning to help this lucky survivor. In dodging death and revitalizing his way of life, he is awarded with the true Infiniheart, the kind that dares to break free.

Reviewed by Sarah Peters
A former music editor and staff writer for LAS, Sarah Peters recently disappeared. Perhaps one day she will surface again, who knows.

See other reviews by Sarah Peters

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