Tuesday, April 8, 2008

Reviews:: Langhorne Slim Diamonds and Gold

Wow. That's my initial reaction after hearing the dramatic shift in sound from Langhorne Slim. From a one man band who strummed the hell out of his acoustic and rocked a serious bowler hat, Slim has made the jump to a man with a plan, and a full band.

The songs on Diamonds and Gold are remarkably fleshed out, but to me the results are just as exciting as his stripped down work. Mixing in keyboards, drums, cello but still keeping the intensity, I think Diamonds and Gold will finally get Langhorne Slim some recognition. V2 signed him and then did nothing with him, but it seems to good folks at Kemado are hitching their wagon onto this young buck and I think they are going to be happy with the results.

The change in style is obvious from the jump. Instead of a frantic acoustic, Spinning Compass opens with a cello and drums dominating the mix, and over the course of a 1:53 you get hit with piano, xylophone and a backing chorus. Slim follows it up with the single - The Rebel Side of Heaven - and the catchy track uses a fat tuba, an organ and a piano to add depth to the track. But the beefed up sound works for one reason; Slim hasn't lost and of the fire you have come to expect from him. His voice is as still cracks when he stretches to hit the notes that consistently sit on the edge of his range; unphased by the fact his voice could go at any minute.

Some of the more familiar tracks have been reworked. Restless for example, is a great introduction to Slim's simple, honest delivery and how he can make even the most basic words turn into something more.
"You can blame it on your teacher, you can blame it on the weather. Blame on how your mother and father didn't stick together. Someday my friends, it's gotta make sense in our head, can't make up our minds till we wake up and make our beds."

One of my favorite Slim songs - She's Gone - was a stripped down masterpiece when he played it on Daytrotter. Now, the frantic pace is bolstered by some crazy instrumental choices. When he screams , "filthy demands" , I expected to hear the gentle cymbal wash, but instead was hit with a banged out piano line.

For these tracks, it's mostly just Slim letting his band fill in his ideas. The energy and grit still shine trough and the backbone of the songs is still there, but it's the three song block - Hello Sunshine, Diamond and Gold and The Honeymoon - that really shows the big shift. Hello Sunshine is piano and drum drive, complete with some chaotic swirling electronic textures and falsetto vocals hovering above the chorus. Diamond and Gold is a piano driven soul track with nary a guitar strum to be found. Instead there are some twinkled ivories and a stand up bass solo all which play well with the more sensitive, optimistic Slim. The Honeymoon is a keyboard, almost new wave sounding track that almost begs for some campy British dance party like you'd see in an Austin Powers flick. Even more shocking is how well the songs fit and how great they sound.

Just as quickly, he returns to form with the boot stomping Tipping Point. The sing-along chorus and hi-di-hos will make this one an instant fan favorite for those lucky enough to see Slim and the War Eagles up close and personal. The record closes with two beautiful songs - Worries and The Hummingbird- which shows how accessible Slim can be. The songs float by like a summer breeze, forcing you to tap a foot and slow down a step.

Overall, I have to say that this isn't the record I expected, but it's one I'm really enjoying. I haven't stopped listening since I got it - forcing Sun Kil Moon and Justin Rutledge to the back burner - and can't see me changing the rotation anytime soon.

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Posted at 5:49 PM by ack :: 0 comments

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