Thursday, December 11, 2008

Re-Reviews:: Brett Randall & the Pinecones

Way back in March, I was all about the new release from Brent Randall & the Pinecones, We Were Strangers in Paddington Green. Well, it seems the record was held up and is FINALLY going to hit the streets on January 20th/09. Also held up? My original review when it comes to search engines. So, for that reason and because like 10 people read it... I'll simply repost the original and hope you enjoy.

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As I've mentioned many times before, although I live in Vancouver (ED: this is no longer true), it's not all nature parks and pleasantries. In fact, there are homeless people everywhere, tons of violence and copious amounts of rain. It's an incredibly depressing walk on dark Monday mornings, but today was a bit different.

Brent Randall
's blissful melodies boomed out of my headphones, and it was almost like being in that Coke commercial where Grand Theft Auto-land is suddenly a sunshine filled paradise. With the bouncing bass line, horns, sleigh bells, and playful electric noodle of Bluebirds, Flowers, and Other Things dancing around whimsically I started to smile uncontrollably. And when Randall crooned - "we scrub-a-dub dub in the fountain" over the gentlest of hand claps, it was impossible not to get that extra pep in my step.

That actually holds true for all of Brent's new record, We Were Strangers in Paddington Green. He's a troubadour with a great sense of melody and an appreciation for complex arrangements. From the opening moments of Strange Love (Don't be Lazy), you can't help but be impressed by Randall's ability to manage instruments. The song starts with some xylophone, electric guitar, twinkling ivories and percussion blocks but somehow every note is crystal clear. It never seems crowded and over the four-minute song he incorporates angelic harmonies, and slow pulled strings and transports you into a mellow, dream like state.

It would be hard to listen to Randall and not mention his appreciation for Randy Newman or Nilsson, but these songs have a pop sensibility that will appeal to McCartney fans. And while the songs may include lush arrangements and countless musical instruments, they aren't dependent on them. He's a commanding enough front man to draw you close with just his piano and voice. Despite all of the accompaniment on Snowdrops, it's the ivory and dueling vocals that shine the brightest.

I know cabaret pop isn't everyone's cup of tea, but the diversity Randall shows on this record is enough that almost any listener should find something to grab hold off. Whether it's the McCartney-esque pop of Bluebirds, the bossa nova shuffle of the quick hitting The Nightingale and The Rose or the Rufus Wainright charm of Lions Valley, Randall & the Pinecones make the tracks surprisingly accessible. They are able to change emotion and tempo enough to keep you interested, for example the driving push of the infectious This House is contrasted nicely by the emotional weight of Sweet Thames and Slumberjack.

I think that has a lot to do with the time taken developing the songs and spent in the studio. When the record finished, I was left with one thought solidified in my mind. Randall & his Pinecones really pay attention to the details. Every song felt complete, fleshed out but never overstated. Nothing was added to try to bolster the sound and often the band passes the conch, letting each sound express itself clearly without too many distractions. With the help of Jason MacIsaac, Randall's visions come to life. Each note plays a role and adding a crisp percussion block or harmony at just the right moment seems to rank equally with the guitar, piano or strings.

People always talk about how same-sy the indie scene has become. For all those people, I challenge you to listen to Brent Randall. Here's a group of people trying something outside of most people's listening comfort zone and pulling it off easily. It's sunshine filled bliss with the occasional rain cloud filled grey sky and it's well worth a listen.

Posted at 4:28 PM by ack :: 0 comments

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