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  Future Songs  
  The Cranes  
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For some reason, i just never got into The Cranes. They were one of those bands that i was told i would really like: shoegazer with high-pitched female vocals. Yup, that's what i like. And yet, i just never got around to giving them a listen.

Well, they just released a new album, and people once again told me i should enjoy it. So i tracked down a copy. Boy, i am glad i did -- apparently, The Cranes are a really talented band. Who knew?.

Basically, The Cranes feature lush instrumentation that is heavy on the guitar. This is accompanied by the "little girl" singing of Alison Shaw. let me discuss her voice first.

Ms. Shaw is a soprano, and her singing style invokes the feeling of a very young girl trying to sing. It's a strange effect, and reminds me of Regina Sosinski from Mira or Catherine Cooper from Alison's Halo. It's a particular vocal style accessible only to females with voices in the highest range. I mention this because i know that it annoys some people, and in fact Ms. Shaw's vocals are sometimes grating even to me. This is especially true on Driving In The Sun, and to a lesser degree on Fragile on this release. So: people who like huskier, deeper vocal stylings should be careful when approaching The Cranes.

I think that, for the most part, Ms. Shaw's voice is wonderfully accompanied by the rest of the band, led by her brother Jim Shaw. Mr. Shaw is apparently the drummer in the band, and he turns in a nice rhythmic performance on this disc. Nice, but subtle. The drumming never takes the center stage, nor does it detract from the other instruments.

Aside from Ms. Shaw's vocals, the other main musical focus of the band is the guitarwork of Mark Francombe. He creates some luscious melodies throughout this album, most noteably on Future Song and Driving In The Sun. Francombe really shines on those two numbers.

However, i have yet to mention my favorite song on the disc, Sunrise. This song starts with some slow backmasking, which is slowly replaced by a light acoustic guitar. Alison Shaw's voice somes in, layered so that she is singing her own counter-melody (a lovely effect). This is a beautiful low-key song that feels vaguely melancholy. It is the real stunner of the album.

But really, there isn't a bad song on the disc. Most of the album is light dreampop. The few exceptions are noteworthy. The aptly named track Eight is a sound collage and not a song per se. It really sounds like a field recording taken on the upstairs balcony at Atlanta's Masquerade nightclub. Subdued rave beats are far beneath you (the lowest layer of the club and of the song) while something dark and loud screeches up top (death metal at the top floor of The Masquerade?), and all around are people talking, chatting, and having a good time. It's really wierd to listen to this on headphones....

Everything For The Maker Of Heavenly Trousers is another very different song for The Cranes. It's a slow keyboard based instrumental. I like it, but it is unlike the rest of the album.

Speaking of electronica, the album also features two remixes. The first, a remix of Fragile, adds massive amounts of tremolo to the album's most radio-friendly song. And you know, after the tremolo, The Cranes sound remarkably like Mazzy Star. Wierd. The second remix is of the song Don't Wake Me Up, the original version of which is unremarkable. The remix adds lots of subtle keys, and it swells to a nice mellow climax in a way that the original mix fails to do. This remix might be my second favorite tune on the album.

Overall i would say that Future Songs is a very nice, relaxing, dreampop album. However, people who are serious fans have told me that this is quite different from the rest of their music. Hmmm. I wonder what they used to sound like?

At any rate, on Future Songs i hear an accomplished band who are both familiar with and comfortable with each other and their instruments. The band plays seemingly effortlessly.

They make it look so easy!

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