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  Cone Of So  
  American Dream  
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Which came first, the band or the album? Usually, the answer is clear cut: a band gets together, rehearses some, and finally releases a recording. However, there are "bands" out there who do it a bit differently (Smog aka Bill Callahan come to mind). In those cases, you really have one person who writes and records material on their own, and only deals with logistics of live performance later.

American Dream also falls into this latter category.

Recorded on a 4 track, American Dream is essentially the brainchild and product of David Railey. Although a couple of other performers show up on this first album, the majority of instruments and all of the vocals are handled by Railey (who also wrote all the material). In cases like this, where one person is essentially the band, it's easy for the recordings to become somewhat rarified - as if the singer/musicians sat around in a dark apartment for too long, recording and overdubbing until the music is lost under a wall of sound. Likewise, without anyone else's input, the songs themselves can venture off into the quirky and/or pretentious because there's no-one to essentially slap the songwriter and say, "What the hell are you thinking?"

Luckily, Cone of So only briefly ventures into this territory (and I'll warn you about that later). Nine of the 10 songs demonstrate a melodic sensibility that's infectious - the songs (and their singer) worm their way into your consciousness and stay there. Seriously, I can't tell you how many times I've been sitting in the silence of my house and I've started humming something off this album. Recording-wise, it reminds me of some of the North Carolina Indie-Pop bands, such as Ashley Stove - hooky, a little jangly, with a slight country twang amidst catchy Pop tunes. It's an impressive debut, especially when you've essentially got one person directing the entire enterprise.

I only have two real criticisms for this album: one of which is general to the album, and one of which is a mis-step. In general, Cone of So suffers from some of the production issues that are common to debut albums - the vocals are way up front, and some of the other instruments just fade into the background. For instance, the liner notes indicate that a cello was played at some point on the album, but I haven't been able to pick it up. This mix may be a function of the 4 track process in general, but I do find that many debut albums are recorded with way too dominant vocals. I tend to think that if you really want to feature the vocals, then you ought to just do a guitar and vocal album and not bother to add other instruments. But this is a relatively minor criticism.

The primary mis-step on this album is the 3rd track, Masturbation Chicken Scribble. This is the one song on which someone ought to have smacked Railey upside the head and asked, "What the hell are you thinking?" Between the radio static and the chanting of the song's title, this song veers into a pretentious art realm I haven't heard since the last time I listened to "Evil Tyrant" (by Smog, found on Forgotten Foundations). It was enough to almost throw me off this album entirely; however the rest of the material was strong enough to overcome this handicap.

So, what we've got is a very strong debut which fits squarely within the Southern Indie Rock tradition. Just skip the 3rd track, and you're likely in for a enjoyable listen.

Related Links:

The first concert that Tracers saw by American Dream.


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