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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
Jim Yoshii Pile-Up
Picks Us Apart
Absolutely Kosher

Rating: 9/10 ?


July 29, 2005
The first time I heard the Jim Yoshii Pile-Up, I had to excuse myself from the room. Not because I was appalled by what I was hearing - quite the opposite; the lyrics struck me in such a violently personal way that I suddenly felt exposed. My own heartbreak bled from the speakers slowly for all to hear. When the song ended I crept away into a silent stairwell. I have never been one for crying in public.

Although no shocks awaited me on Picks Us Apart, the Pile-Up does live up to their reputation of finely crafted, universally emotional indie pop.

Sitting down with this record feels like holding an intimate conversation with a close friend in a quiet, smoky room. As the words fall from his lips, somehow - even without experiencing the specifics - you still understand with perfect clarity.

Picks Us Apart encompasses this specific-yet-universal quality. On album opener, "A Toast to the Happy Couple," one of the songs most influenced by bandleader Paul Gonzenbach's struggles with mental illness, he sings pieces of a will; by doing so, he leaves blood-stained mattresses and lifeless handshakes to family members. Despite the specifics and overtly personal nature, the song doesn't feel like an intrusion. Gonzenbach hasn't offered too much information, just enough to make it feel real and believable.

Gonzenbach may have a heavy heart and mind, but these accounts never degrade into broadly generalized songs of corrupted will or lost love. He may lament from time to time, but never betrays trust or intimacy by trivializing the situation. The album may hinge on Gonzenbach's mental struggles, but he never waters down his personal account to reach the masses - sometimes it's just easier to relate to something real and specific than manufactured and obvious. This honesty makes songs like "Beach Glass" and "Silver Sparkler" all the more accessible: not so much musically, as the band's lush melodies are far from abrasive - but emotionally.

Despite the lyrical heaviness, Picks Us Apart doesn't qualify as a downer, per se. Several tracks delicately juxtapose poppier music to the soul bearing montages, like on "Revulsion" and "Low Rent Horror," while the simple and folky "Heart My Home" helps lighten up the record. Through every turn, Picks Us Apart is a beautiful, poignant album; certainly one of the best of the year so far.

Reviewed by Natalie B. David
A fresh graduate of the Grady College of Journalism at the University of Georgia, in her spare time she can be found clumsily manipulating words and phrases for LAS and Beautiful/Decay magazine, hungering for sushi, naming inanimate objects or pondering the existence of stiletto heels. If you see her, you should buy her a cup of coffee because, chances are, she probably needs it.

See other reviews by Natalie B. David

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