» Full Dark, No Stars - Stephen King's new novella questions mankind's ability to trust others.
[02.21.2011 by Bridget Doyle]


 » 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]


 » 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
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
Let's Build A Fire
Absolutely Kosher

Rating: 9/10 ?

October 25, 2006
The needle drops, slipping as it makes contact with the raised edge of a lost piece of vinyl from the Jazz Age. Sauntering big-band horns come to life, pock-marked with the familiar crackles and pops of an old-fashioned record player that's been sitting around collecting dust for years. Amazingly, the old Victrola still works for former Versus guitarist James Baluyut and the rest of +/- on the sentimental title track opener to the brilliant indie-pop supernova Let's Build A Fire.

Evoking the romance and glamour of a bygone era, it's the perfect beginning to a song that's all about new beginnings and saying "so long" to a painful past. From +/-, it's a completely unexpected way to usher in an album that raises the bar ridiculously high for guitar-based indie pop.

Traveling back in time isn't out of character for +/-. Despite their thoroughly modern pop constructs, +/i has always displayed an affinity for timeless melodies. The evidence here is provided by the album's winsome first single, "Steal The Blueprints," and the endlessly cascading, piano-chased folk-pop of "Summer Dress 2." But nowhere is that reverance for the past felt more than on that winning album intro. Call it a sly studio trick or a gimmick, if you must, but it exudes such nostalgic warmth and authenticity that it's bound to silence any critics. What's more, when +/- emerge from the fog of yesteryear about half way through the track, they do so boldly, turning up the volume on sunny trumpets and swaggering electric guitar bravado. It's like an alarm clock was set to go off in 2006 and when it does, +/- wakes up to go to work on building that fire they promised.

From here on out, +/- dispenses with any artificiality, concentrating instead on immaculately crafted, moody pop songs of incredible diversity and range, constructed with a polyglot of crazy rhythms, magical hooks and complex, glistening guitar lines. Yet the intricacy of songs like the impossibly gymnastic "Thrown Into The Fire," with its twinkling fretwork and mathy tempo changes, never detracts from the album's gorgeous melodies, enhanced by crystal clear production. Big, carpet-bombing riffs, the kind leveled by the Foo Fighters lo these many years, take your breath away in "Fadeout" after minutes of tricky stick work, courtesy of drummer Chris Deaner, and tension-building arpeggios. Birds sing at the start of the aforementioned "Steal The Blueprints," with sunny, stunningly intricate guitar interplay and multi-tracked drums setting the stage for an exploding chorus. Dreamy and melodic, "The Important Thing To Love" is a lovely breather, its expansive, dark atmosphere rippling with black pools of guitar reverb. Accented by violin, mandolin and, if I'm not mistaken, accordion parts, "The Important Thing To Love" is an example of Baluyet and company's growth as arrangers. Bringing strings and other accoutrements through the backdoor, +/- weaves them skillfully into the fabric of the song so that all the elements coalesce into one beautiful melodic drive.

Some moments are more grandiose and epic than others. Shining with silvery chimes, "Ignoring The Detours" rides blissfully on waves of cello, a steady train of drums that a grows into a thundering herd of multi-layered beats and simple guitar rounds before a perfect shoegazer storm hits. A monsoon of corrosive distortion and larger-than-life guitars riffs, more beautiful than they have a right to be, threatens to overwhelm gentle strains of Portastatic-style pop, but it never quite does. There are life lessons here about taking shortcuts and avoiding real connections, and the weight of those introspective lyrics, combined with the sheer power of that musical sensory overload, leaves you speechless. As does the Radiohead-meets-Sixteen Horsepower acoustic dramatics of "Profession," complete with fluidly plucked banjo and Thom Yorke-like vocal wail. As does the bittersweet power-pop of "One Day You'll Be There," its hooks constantly stopping and starting on a dime only to gather the emotional strength needed to break your heart.

Rumor has it Anderson Cooper loves +/-. If someday I see him wearing a sandwich board proclaiming the band's greatness on CNN, he'll have earned my everlasting respect. Let's Build A Fire is one of those records that breeds obsession. With its mind-blowing dynamics and wounded memories, bandaged up in affecting, mature lyrics that dissect relationships with a therapist's perspective, the wisdom of hindsight and an artist's touch, Let's Build A Fire is almost flawless. Maybe it doesn't reinvent the wheel, but its treadlife will last for miles and miles and never blow out.

Reviewed by Peter Lindblad
Peter Lindblad lives in Appleton, Wis., and bleeds green and gold just like all the Packer fan nutjobs in the area. He does draw the line at wearing blocks of chedder on his head, or any other body parts for that matter, though. His professional career has taken weird twists and turns that have led him to his current position as an editor at a coin magazine. He hopes his stay there will be a short one. Before that, he worked as an associate editor at a log home magazine. To anyone that will listen, he\'ll swear that Shiner was one of the greatest rock bands to ever walk the earth. Yet he also has much love for Superchunk, Spoon, DJ Shadow, Swervedriver, Wilco, Fugazi, Jawbox, ... And You Will Know Us By The Trail Of Dead, Queens Of The Stone Age, and Modest Mouse, among others.

See other reviews by Peter Lindblad



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