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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
Your Team Ring
In Service of the Villain
Perhaps Transparent

Rating: 9/10 ?


October 1, 2004
All the buildings on the street are ravaged by fire - victims of either natural disaster or insurance schemes. In the middle of the street is an old theater, at least 60 or 70 years old, its lights broken, its walls blackened, its windows smashed.

The inside of the theater has been thoroughly gutted, and anything of interest has long since been removed by fire or scavengers. A large section of the roof has caved in, pouring nature into the broken building. The center of the floor has sunk gracefully into the basement, creating a basin filled with murky water, occasionally stirred by drafts from the warped walls. Sunlight comes down through the hole in the ceiling, reflects off the water and dances on the tattered remains of the old movie screen.

An elaborate speaker system rings the room and when the rare visitor listens very carefully - a half-heard soundtrack music plays faintly through the rainwater-damaged system. There are ringing bells mixed with handclaps ("The Final Broadcast"); a humbled guitar undercut by strange gurgling noises ("Damaged Goods"); and borrowed organ sighs and resigned moans ("Heaven is Bending").

The longer a person spends there, the more they hear. But the longer the stay, the harder it is to leave. And the more times they have been there the more difficult it is to return and hear the sounds again...

Drawing from the same cultural well as His Name is Alive or Head of Femur, Your Team Ring plows new ground for weird American pop, appropriately coalescing in a year when Brian Wilson has taken his legendary Smile on the road. In Service of the Villain sounds less influenced by Wilson than by his Smile songwriting partner, Van Dyke Parks, a multi-instrumentalist and concept-album guru. After penning many of Wilson's stranger Smile-era verses, Parks went on to record Song Cycle, an ambitious multi-genre statement that looms large in a year in which pop opuses like the Fiery Furnaces' Blueberry Boat and the Arcade Fire's Funeral have split critical opinion.

In Service of the Villain falls somewhere in between - more grounded in cinematic modernity than the arch Blueberry Boat, but still far removed from the indie scepter-passing of the Arcade Fire's buzz.

Your Team Ring weaves a thick tapestry (and the album is baroque enough to call it a "tapestry") of horns, strings and guitars. Eight people sing on the record, but it is clearly the artistic mission of just two people, delivered almost as a small musical with a cast of characters playing parts. It's an odd mix of 19th century aesthetic and 21st century design, like a time-warped vaudeville troupe recording in Abbey Road Studios.

In Service of the Villain shifts from sated observations of semi-mythic everyday events to a sort of doomed altar boy fatalism, like a child embellishing Revelations from memory. It links together tales of indentured servants, murderers and pet owls, as well as the American and European backgrounds of the group's two major players. Its final purpose is as important and as difficult to pin down as the purpose of the old abandoned movie theater, and it requires just as much attention to appreciate.

Reviewed by Erick Bieritz
Erick Bieritz lives in Chicago, where is usually either very hot or very cold. He was the brainchild behind EPMD, where he wrote about EPs and singles for LAS, looking for overlooked or underappreciated non-album releases.

See other reviews by Erick Bieritz

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