Album Reviews

Intrumental Quarter’s Traffic Jam

A review by Steve Marovitch

The Italian band, Instrumental Quarter, has recently released their second album, Traffic Jam, produced in Chicago by Sickroom Records. This album of voiceless instrumental compositions is an ethereal, beautifully arranged mix of your standard rock instruments and some less common ones, like Rhodes piano and the hard to come by theremin. The classic rock drums and acoustic guitar meld seamlessly with avant-garde electric piano lines and emotive strings.

This new album is like a classical motion picture soundtrack, evoking images of autumn car rides down deserted country roads and winters spent indoors watching the snow fall silently outside. The album is very much like the Midwest, despite its overall post-rock sound, having a sort of down-home, rustic charm the band may have picked up while recording here. The songs on Traffic Jam showcase the ridiculously high musicianship of the band’s four members, yet remain accessible and delicate.

A couple highlights of the album include the reverb-tastic “Water Guns” and “Illinois Breakfast II.” The latter song is really the masterpiece of the album, transitioning from the harsh plucking/strumming of violin and guitar strings to a rolling chord progression and back again effortlessly. Every song on the album is worth listening to, each bringing something new to the table, not just the same tired loops you get from a lot of instrumental bands these days.

Instrumental Quarter has created an absolute gem with their new release Traffic Jam. The melancholy whine of violin, the original acoustic guitar melodies and biting drums make this album stand out as a great departure from the Yannis of popular instrumental music today. If you like Sigur Ros or The Autumn Leaf, you’ll most likely enjoy this new release. If you’re not that familiar with instrumental music, let this be a starting point for you. If you don’t think you’re a fan of instrumental music, let this album change your mind.

Starflyer 59’s My Island

A review by Andy Glaysher

Often when I listen to a given album its sound will remind me of certain seasons: Radiohead’s Kid A sounds like winter, Hendrix’s Are You Experienced? sounds like spring and The Beach Boys’ Sounds of Summer … well that should be pretty self-explanatory. Starflyer 59’s newest release, My Island, reminds me of the fall – a feat that few albums have been able to achieve. This is because fall is by far the most unique season of the year. Sure, winter has snow, and summer has sunshine, but there’s nothing like a Midwestern autumn; it is a hauntingly evocative treat for the senses. At no other time in the year do we get to experience the flushed landscapes that fall colors paint. I’m sorry if this seems like an advertisement for the next October Lovers’ meeting, but there is no other way for me to describe the music of Starflyer 59. For some reason their albums seem to spontaneously create highly emotive atmospheres, and My Island is no exception. It opens with “The Frontman,” an upbeat groover in which Jason Martin drenches a distorted canvas of sound with his lulling, signature croon -a juxtaposition that Starflyer 59 has perfected since their debut in 1993. The album continues at its initial pace with “Nice Guy,” featuring arguably the greatest bass line in all of Starflyer’s vast repertoire. Next is the first single, “I Win.” Not only is this a well-suited single because of its catchiness, but it embodies the attitude of the album as well with a style that can only be described as “surf-grunge-twang.” Other notable tracks include “My Island” and “Pearl of Great Price.” The former leaves an impression on me within the first verse, while the latter reminds me that Starflyer 59 has yet to compromise their dreamy aesthetic. My Island’s only downside is the fact that it flows with no dynamics whatsoever. Each song definitely has a distinct perspective, but part of Starflyer’s unique appeal stems from what they do with the slower, gloomier side of the musical spectrum. Sadly, there are no traces of that on this album. But not to worry; My Island still manages to capture the raw sound that Starflyer 59 invented in the early ’90s.

The Antiques’ Nicknames and Natives

A review by Katie Heika

I think, for some odd reason, I am drawn to bands that have the word “The” at the beginning of their name. The Shins, The Postal Service, The Album Leaf … so when I was rummaging through the CD bin in the buzz office, I figured I’d give The Antiques’ Nicknames and Natives a try.

From the second I started playing The Antiques’ debut album, Nicknames and Natives, I immediately noticed my head rhythmically swaying back and forth to a gently strummed guitar.

Influenced by bands like Wilco, Bob Dylan and the Rolling Stones, The Antiques combine a classic rock sound with modern pop, producing an original indie-pop-rock album filled with captivating melodies, catchy beats and unique sounds (lyrically and instrumentally) that easily draw the listener in. Each song has its own style, but listening to the album in its entirety, the songs seem to string together a story of growth, uncertainty, hardships and, of course, love and relationships.

The album consists of a mixture of guitar, harmonics, drums and percussion making most of their songs upbeat, yet soothing. “Prolonged Detour” is one of their more mellow songs, but does an accurate job highlighting these particular characteristics with lyrics like, “Well I missed her/Every night/ But it was all right/There was nothing I could do, anymore/Except to please her/With her being someone new.”

But after listening to the album over and over again, I began to realize to whom exactly The Antiques can be closely related in today’s generation: Elliott Smith (with two t’s … I’m sure you knew that, but that’s beside the point).

I mean, their lyrics aren’t extremely depressing or anything like that, but what I’m trying to get at is this (for any of you who have seen the movie Good Will Hunting, you’ll know what I’m getting at). It’s like you can take the majority of the songs off the album and place them strategically throughout the movie. It’s lyrically and musically possible, especially for “Near Yorktown and at the X,” the last song on the album. With lyrics like, “My own Civil War inside my mind/the walls are built too high/But I’m talking too fast/And I’m not alone/I wanna walk through my past/Like I’m walking on a treasure map/And at the X/I wanna feel as though I know what’s next/When

I come down/I hope that you are there with me,” this song can easily replace Elliott Smith’s “Miss Misery” during the last scene of the movie. Now, I’m not saying it would make the scene better because that song wraps up the movie perfectly, but it fits.

Go ahead, listen for yourself.

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