Abraham Levitan - Speak, Memory
Speak, Memory' is a product of the solo side-project of Abraham Levitan of Chicago's Baby Teeth, a quick, 8-track album that serves as a "showcase for the breadth of his influences". It's certainly broad, and while Baby Teeth are known for their precise indiepop, 'Speak, Memory' is a rather looser affair, the main body of the album driven by the fact that every song is so different from the ones either side it feels like you've been catapulted to another planet.
The lyrics are more than a little off-kilter aswell - in 'If It Bleeds, Pt. 1" we hear Levitan sing, warble and rap ("You're old! Your music... is old.") and exclaim, Disney-style, "Precious and free?! Impossibility!!" That brief spasm over, the song continues as if it had never been there at all. Yet elsewhere, the songwriting is soulful and even witty - "Could it be that I was just a little shy? Scared to lose the wall you broke down?" from in 'Sarah (The German Song)' featuring Bobby Conn is perfectly placed and incredibly well-delivered. The song itself is one of the album's high points for the sliding strings and slightly uncomfortable harmonies - it's beautiful and quite haunting. 'Please Me' featuring Snokilla also deserves a mention - vibrato-rich and swelling sounds mis with simple guitar work and drumbeats, and it's a gem.
The musicianship and originality of this album are it's two big trump cards - you'd be hard pressed to find anyone else with a sound as distinctive and versatile as Levitan's. When it's good, it's very, very good, but something about the mix doesn't quite sit right. It's still worth buying, though - if only to have the experience of listening to it. You should also try listening to it backwards, and see if that helps.
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