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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
Vague Angels
Let's Duke It Out at Kilkenny Katz
Pretty Activity

Rating: 7/10 ?


April 14, 2006
Some guys have their fingers in all the pies, and ex-Van Pelt, Native Nod and The Lapse guitarist Chris Leo appears to be one of them. Vague Angels represents but one project towards which his insatiable artistic deluge is channeled. Leo's single previous venture under this moniker was wedded to and released with a novel entitled White Pigeons. While he is indeed prolific, he is not necessarily so at the expense of quality; in spite of the multifaceted manner with which he chooses to express himself, Leo manages to avoid spreading himself too thinly.

Naturally, any commodity that displayed Leo's name would attract the attention of anyone harbouring the slightest of fixations with either of his bands of old. After all, Native Nod were adopted as young pioneers of a genre, and in the form of The Van Pelt a somewhat refined version followed. But for those expecting to hear "Let's Make a List" all over again, prepare to have your dreams dashed.

Let's Duke It Out at Kilkenny Katz is unequivocally Chris Leo, yet at the same time is at odds with his résumé. His vocals retain the urgency that was always difficult to digest passively and, for the most part, remain spoken. It's almost as if he uses his voice as a vehicle to transport his cryptic poetry - his lines are cut-up and loosely structured, while any mere suggestion of a chorus is doomed from its inception.

Leo's dabblings with literature are intermittently hinted at during Kilkenny Katz' course. He likes to tell a story, and in the case of "The Vague Angels of Vagary," narrates the course of an adventure of sorts: "I set my sights on train-track tundra/ Spent in two continents/ I mean, ages/ And I perused/ When I woke, I was in Ukraine." His words are descriptive, but avoid calling a spade a spade; though "vague" would be an inappropriate term to describe it with, perhaps this is what Leo had in mind when he christened his project.

Musically, Vague Angels showcases a fresh, more refined approach for Leo. His songwriting is direct, eradicating any suggestions of extended collaboration despite the array of instruments bound by Kilkenny Katz's lush, layered production. The bouncy rhythms of "The Princess and the Newt" sustain melancholic sensitivity, which continue during the course of the instrumental "Holiday Guitar." In the most lucid of terms, Vague Angels is upbeat and resonates with a folky twang, which provides an apt home for Leo's literary quirks.

Though Kilkenny Katz may take the most avid Leo-ites by surprise, it offers the diversity and eccentric charm that the most meticulous cliques may find themselves opening their arms to. Stripping his musical identity of its inessentials has enabled Leo to spread his wings, and with a blithe flow and a jaunty disposition, do what he has always done well.

Reviewed by Mike Wright
A staff writer based in London, England, Mike Wright is eternally troubled by the American bastardization of the English language.

See other reviews by Mike Wright

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