Friday, September 7, 2007

Reviews:: Nathan Lawr & the Minotaurs A Sea of Tiny Lights

Let's get this out of the way early. This review is like my boss's balding head - glowing brightly. From the initial wandering guitar/harmonica riff that starts A Sea of Tiny Lights until the last note of the closing track, I completely enjoy this record. Musically, lyrically, thematically… it's rock solid on all counts. Enough that I could just say it’s a lock stock for my end-of-year list, but that doesn't really help anyone.

So with that in mind, let's try to be objective and not flip the world on it's side with another dose of blogger hyperbole. The record opens with Righteous Heart, a nice rootsy anthem that pushes the sonic limits of the genre. Instead of the simple guitar lines and a consistent pace, Lawr and his band mix lines, instruments and harmonies effortlessly. Throughout this release, his song writing also pushes limits, as he jumps around from love and loss to tight political and historical narratives without relying on the normal melancholic tones. As a result, the record feels fresh and light despite the heavy subject matter. The growth from his last release - Secret Carpentry - is staggering.

The album shifts nicely on The Glass, a song which seems to be Lawr's take on a sailor desperately trying to get to shore on the morning of the Halifax Explosion. Any East Coaster that sat through class after class about the disaster (and that Vignette on public access TV), will embrace this tale and the swells of horns and electric work the band throws in adds the panic needed to mirror the terror the sailors must have felt. He shows his narrative prowess again on Footsteps, a song written from the perspective of Jim Loney (when he was kidnapped in Iraq). The tale is chilling, but so well written you want the song to speed up to hear the ending, like skipping ahead to finish a great book. The lyricism is balanced nicely by adventurous arrangement that uses an Andrew Bird like melody, well placed horns and percussion .

Lawr offers a subtle tip of his hat to Waits on If You Don't Believe Me, but twists the sound into his own. The bar room stomper throws in booming choruses and vocal swells to contrast the simple notes and percussion heavy verses and the song takes on a piano bar, sing along feel. It lightens the mood of the record, and starts the transition to more accessible songs. The simple strums of Swimming Like A Needle In The Haystack Of The Sea is a much better instance of the type of song you'd hear forced at the end of a pop punk record, where the "artist" wants to show how much Billy Bragg influenced his work. Instead, Lawr displays his chops and shows that he can intrigue you with even the simplest of songs. The Minotaurs harmonize nicely and add subtle instrumentation to his interpretations of Eduardo Galleano's Book of Embraces and he comes back with the floating sounds of Make Yourself. The middle section of the record successfully switches the pace and tempo and you find yourself wondering what else he can deliver.

It's easy to go song by song and point out the highlights, of which there are many, but looking at the record on a whole you see the perfection of imperfection, as Lawr shows confidence, insecurity, scorn, love, and jealousy as he looks at the world around him and deep inside himself. Quite simply, and most accurately, the record is real. He doesn't try to force himself into one emotion or style, it's quite the opposite in fact. He soaks in inspiration from everything (The Devil is an anger filled track that Lawr wrote after seeing Van Sant's Elephant), which is why the record never stumbles.
MP3:: Righteous Heart

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Posted at 12:48 PM by ack :: 0 comments

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