Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Reviews:: Deromantic

It's been a successful year for the country fried goodness of Familiar Music. First they issued some great music from Megan Hamilton (Feudal Ladies Club, How We Think About Light) and a great EP from Shelby Lamb's (Suburban Cowboy). Now, they are back with a strong effort from Deromantic.

Deromantic is the brain trust of front man, Steve Puchalski. Naturally, I assumed that this record would roll along like tumbleweed in a ghost town. The label has been crafting some of the best country music in the Canadian scene, so it was an safe, albeit errant bet. To my pleasant surprise, Deromantic mixes up their sound quite a bit. The record starts with an epic number - which is a bold move if you consider my stance on songs running longer than 5-minutes - but the slow building track (Under the City Lights) uses an orchestral swoon of strings to get your attention while you get seated, before drifting into more expected territory. A nice acoustic line floats in and around the textures of the lap steel and Steve's earthy vocals of a band struggling to gain an audience really hit home. The flood of the houselights he sings about is equaled by the admission of honesty coming from the lead singer. Steve opens himself up early (and often throughout this record) and the band (and Megan and Shelby) provides some nice harmonies and keyboard / horn support to keep the track from getting stale with the extended shelf life.

Deromantic keep rolling on Please Forget. The familiar music (pardon the pun) continues with Shelby Lynne's beautiful backing vocals on the slow burner. The voices sound great together, and the band manages to create nice lines that are intricate and balanced, but never interfere with the duet. I have to say, the band does take the spotlight from time to time, especially on numbers like Dusty Suit. The simple drums and piano work sound great and let Steve's voice explore the space.

The record settles into a nice AM radio vibe on Thousand Dreams. The song floats around your headphones with free moving piano parts and more delicate steel. Steve also shows his chops as a front man on Coward's Serenade. His harmonica work and the pleasant finger picking reminds me of Hayden. The support from the band (namely Chris Wheeler's steel) only enhances the experience. It’s the most straight forward song on the record, and the simplicity is very rewarding.

But Deromantic isn't driving one style down our gullets. They break stride from the mozy on the Spanish themed and aptly titled instrumental, Easy There, Chico. The swells and 70's film inspired strings are a nice refresher and the diversity continues when the band tries their hand at straight ahead pop on Blazers & Bikes. Fans of Jason Collett's rootsy rock will enjoy the tempo (and xylophone) and sing along potential of the Oh Oh chorus. Steve shows he can play the role of traditional rocking singer songwriter on Drunk & 35, a song that showcases some of the most adventurous guitar work, and his chops as a front man on Coward's Serenade.

I wouldn't be fair to the band or the readers if I didn't address some of the missteps on this LP. They jump into a 60s vibe on Twilight, and although it's a bold choice the song stands out in an odd way from the rest of the rest of the record. And too be completely fair, the Nicholas Nickleby length of Mood Lights is a long listen, even though the song is good. They experiment with computer effects and samples, but it just doesn't do enough to warrant the length in this listener's opinion. But those are just nit picks about an otherwise enjoyable record.

The drunken ditty Wild Turkey is a light finisher that really ties up the listening experience. The honky tonky sing along is something you'd sing along to on the porch (or on Sunday night's @ the Cloak & Dagger). Familiar music, it's a label we should all get to know. Deromantic is just another reason why.

MP3:: Please Forget

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Posted at 4:11 PM by ack :: 0 comments

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