Tuesday, March 20, 2007

Reviews:: The Minor Canon No Good Deed Goes Unpunished

From the opening few notes of the new Minor Canon record - No Good Deed Goes Unpunished, I was hooked. Backed by an ever present kick drum, an orchestral horn section and gentle guitar and piano riffs, Paul Larson’s vocals are everything a fan of sad pop music should enjoy.

It Never Was sets the tone for the whole record, with a stomped kick drum and horns that play along with Paul’s vocals. Unlike so many sad sounding songs, Paul uses more instrumentation to help define the sound, as opposed to relying on sparse arrangements to dictate the loneliness. The band started as a solo project for Paul – whose name will start popping up in conversations after his guitar work for Dntel – but has grown into a six piece outfit. Each member plays an important role, as the sounds build together. It’s not a crescendo, but more like a sway, as the sounds float in and around each other, not overtop and underneath.

It’s hard to pick out my favorite tracks, because the songs really flow together so well. As the horns and drums pound on the outro to Bend like Trees, the gentle acoustic riff that starts The Art of the Quickdraw grows organically from the aftermath. Handclaps and drums quickly join in and the density of sound returns. Paul’s voice is tailor made for pop music, but his arrangements set him apart from the countless acts that try the same things. As he matter-of-factly states, “everyday is the same old mess” on Killing Spiders you’d expect the song to fizzle. It’s just a guitar picked line and piano. It’s all the ingredients that make up the recipe for pop music, but he makes them sound so compelling. Although the approach is polished, the band manages to sidestep the trap of making the sounds too slick, and that keeps the emotions real.

This record is going to get a lot of repeats. It’s beautiful and sad, but I get completely immersed in each listen. With the nice piano lines, it would be easy to talk about an artist like Ben Folds, but the tracks rely on hidden, understated melodies, instead of a powerful hook – more in the style of the songs written by Ben’s former partner, Darren Jessee (Hotel Lights). It’s a record that is hard to typecast, which makes sense when you hear Paul remark, “I’d rather kill myself than be defined.”

MP3:: Killing Spiders
MP3:: Cave In

Posted at 1:19 PM by ack :: 0 comments

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