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

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 » 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]

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 » 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
Tarkio
Omnibus
Kill Rock Stars

Rating: 7.5/10 ?


February 23, 2006
Tarkio is Colin Meloy's old band. This is the first and possibly only thing you'll hear about the now-defunct Missoula, Montana group whenever they're mentioned. Reviews of Omnibus, a collection of Tarkio's recordings have focused solely on the band's amateurism, their lack of Decemberists drama and panache...so much so that they might as well have billed the anthology as "The stuff Colin Meloy did before he started the Decemberists". Even Meloy himself shrugs his shoulders at Omnibus, writing in the liner notes, "As for the songs: feh. I like them pretty well."

I take umbrage with this stance - I liked Omnibus immediately and still enjoy it without reservation. Any Decemberists fan will recognize Meloy's voice from track 1, but I didn't need to make excuses for Tarkio simply because of my Decemberists-backing. I think these songs stand on their own and should be approached as more than just Decemberists rehearsals.

Omnibus opens with "Keeping Me Awake," one of Tarkio's strongest songs. Meloy's voice sounds pretty much like it does now with slightly less flair, and is accompanied by a nice little banjo/fiddle combo. The result is an appropriately alt-country blend of catchy and bittersweet. "If I Had More Time" and "Tristan and Iseult" reach the same place with different instruments, proving that Meloy has been adept at tugging on indie heartstrings for some time now.

The alt-country twang is mostly reserved for the first of Omnibus's two discs, which represents the band's only LP, I Guess I Was Hoping For Something More. When these songs aren't making you feel like the only sensitive guy or gal in town, they're liable to get you singing and swaying along. Poppier numbers like "Caroline Avenue", "Neapolitan Bridesmaid" and "Sister Nebraska" up the tempo and fun to road-trip levels. Meloy hangs on to his signature clever smirk on all of these songs, singing about wannabes on "Caroline Avenue": "It takes more than just flipping off the traffic cops to impress me/ You underestimate me." No, the lyrics don't feature one-legged poltroons begging for breadcrumbs in ale houses, (though there are traces of Meloy's fantasy world here and there) they're just straightforward, sincere rock songs.

Tarkio's second disc handles the group's EPs, radio studio recordings and other miscellany. Less unified than disc one (as one would expect,) the second disc is divided between ultra-slow and driving rock, between mostly polished and downright lo-fi. This is the disc that ravenous Decemberists fans will turn to in search of Meloy's early and unreleased work in all its sloppy glory. I don't dislike any of these songs, and there are a few gems like "This Rollercoaster Ride" and Devil's Elbow", but I admit they do have a "work-in-progress" air about them. Nevertheless, Omnibus offers a lot of quality songs from a quality songwriter. You don't have to be a Decemberists fanatic to appreciate Meloy's early work, and if you can pick up on subtle 'cemberists nuances scattered throughout the collection, all the better. Tarkio is to the Decemeberists what Uncle Tupelo is to Wilco: neither of these early groups will ever be better or more popular than their present-day counterparts, but they deserve attention independent of the bands that would outshine them.

Reviewed by Andy Brown
A regular contributor to LAS, Andy Brown lives in the frozen tundra of Minnesota, but doesn\'t think he has an accent.

See other reviews by Andy Brown

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