My new favorite toy is Pandora.com.
Follow the link, plug a song or band name into the little web
app, and the site starts pumping similar songs and bands into
your head. It's quite possibly the greatest thing in the history
of the internet. If you go there, be prepared to expand your
new music budget by at least 50%.
One of my recent finds is Walking Concert. Actually, the credit goes to Ridgeley. He plugged in "Joe Pernice", and one of the first returns was a Walking Concert single. Regardless, Pandora is how I came about listening to Run To Be Born, and boy howdy am I ever listening to it. It's easily one of my most spun discs thus far in 2006.
The band's history is tied to front man Walter Schreifels, who apparently once fronted more hard edged bands like Rival Schools and Quicksand. To be perfectly honest, I know jack shit about either of those bands. Walking Concert is my introduction to any and all of the respective members, and I have no plans to dig into the back catalogue of previous bands. I'm very happy with this band as is. History is superfluous.
Run To Be Born is a straight pop album of the indie rock variety. Strummed guitar backed by lightly modded rhythm guitar with mild percussion and bass, the songs are showcases for Schreifels's lyrics and voice. You can hear a definitive Pavement influence on a couple of tracks, but a Pavement that has an actual working knowledge of melody and song craft.
The album opens with What's Your New Thing, an up-tempo, hand-clapped gem that shouts out to the ever shifting face of cool. "It's a shame to me, how our songs are so last year." If this is last year, I would prefer to stay there. We move from the opener into another great tune, Aluminum, which plays off of the British pronunciation to rhyme "mill-EE-yons" and "minimum." Sheer brilliance. Two songs in, and I'm hooked.
Track three, But You Know… It's True is all of one minute, three seconds long, which is exactly how long it should be. Track four, the title track Run To Be Born, at 2:15 is the longest player yet. There's a certain greatness that allows a pop writer to end his tunes organically, regardless of run time. A lesser talent probably would have plugged an extraneous riff or a needless chorus repetition into any of these songs, and they would have been worse the wear for it.
Even so, the album is just starting to churn up its true grist. Kicking in
on track five is the albums biggest rocker, and one of its best songs, period. Studio
Space clocks in at 1:46, leading into the more traditional songs that form
the heart of the disc. Girls In The Field is a sweet little love song
that sets up the album's three best tracks, The Animals, Audrey,
and What Does Your Heart Say? This is some of the best pure pop-rock
goodness released this decade. "Hell the food at the food court is the only
real risk we are taking. May this moment stay suspended above the free-fall." Indeed. Hands
Up! follows, the most obvious Pavement-influenced tune.
The album's only misstep comes all the way down at track eleven. Mustang Ford is a song that comes across as directionless, incomplete and generally unneeded. But things pick back up with Calypso Slide and A Lot To Expect. Thirteen songs (track fourteen is an eight second album end-note), and only one noticeably weak song? As debuts go, it rarely gets better. Clearly the band's previous experience guides them through the more amateurish mistakes that plague many debuts. Still it must be said, Run To Be Born is more or less an instant classic and Walking Concert, should they continue to turn out this caliber of work, should quickly become a darling of the scene.