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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
Halcyon Digest
No Age - Everything in Between
»No Age
Everything in Between
Sub Pop
Robyn - Body Talk Pt. 1/ Body Talk Pt. 2
Body Talk Pt. 1/ Body Talk Pt. 2
The Walkmen - Lisbon
»The Walkmen
Fat Possum
The Kingsbury Manx
The Fast Rise And Fall Of The South
Yep Roc Records

Rating: 7/10 ?

November 11, 2005
There is something to be said about pop with very little frill. The Kingsbury Manx, a small-time chamber/piano-pop collective from Chapel Hill, NC, realizes this to an effective degree.

To most, "frill-less pop" sounds like an oxymoron; under its very definition "pop" is made from catches and hooks. However, this former Overcoat Recordings-turned-current Yep Roc quintet comes from a more modest school of thought: other contemporary, like-minded songwriters can be found in Damon Gough and Archer Prewitt. Each of these artists is tabbed as "indie rock," but truly not a single one of them is rock-based at all.

Marking back four albums to 2000, the Kingsbury Manx has had time to cultivate their mature musical palette and learn how to make subtle sounds acceptable to a popular taste. Their overlying theme is very mid-to-late Beatles; I think sometimes the Kingsbury Manx even sounds Bri'ish despite being from the US' east coast. In this way one can see their admitted influences from the Byrds and Beatles, but not to an overly celebrated degree. No, they ain't no biters.

The Fast Rise and Fall of the South is most characteristically a piano/acoustic guitar/orchestral/hard drums album. If you can imagine the dark and hard-punch texture of Spoon matched with a dry and warm acoustic atmospheric ambience and a polite, straightforward British musical nuance, this is the Kingsbury Manx. The group is consistent and each song has a similar ringing safe, faux-Brit pop rock edge to it; any of the songs would be perfect in a mix with Donovan and/or on the soundtrack for a Wes Anderson flick.

Bill Taylor extends the delicate, personal imagery with his words and vocal delivery. Much of what he sings about deals with physicality and interpersonal relationships. The glamour-less theme is spread throughout the album from cover art (paintings of tree silhouettes) to instrumentation (acoustic guitar, farfisa, Rhodes, Wurlitzer, mellotron, banjo and trumpet) to Taylor's words.

In some songs it is nearly impossible to tell what the topics are. "And What Fallout!" is in poem form: "Ties/Wrapped around these beds/Feet/Knowing where to stand/and when to walk." Other songs are conversations, and "What A Shame" is a tragic if not ironic tale: "A bliss so underrated to me/'Oh what a shame' said she/Cause this is what lives are supposed to be/A kiss so underrated to me/'Come closer' said she/'Cause this is what close is supposed to be.'" The same unapologetic tone is used to tell of deep emotions as is for the singing about trees, roofs, skin, a running river, snow, footprints and old mountainsides.

To the Kingsbury Manx there is a subtle comfort level throughout it all and this innate quality makes The Fast Rise and Fall of the South a pop album within people instead of within populations; one without frills but with plenty of consistency.

Reviewed by Josh Zanger
Joshua Ian Zanger, a native of rural Chicago, rocks many a world with his writing, style, and generally sweet aroma.

See other reviews by Josh Zanger



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