Jupiter Vinyl - Lazy Ash Tree
Eleven tracks and ten oil paintings. Now that I suppose is the way to go multi-media with an album. If that is an interesting start, the idea of a bass and guitar duo is something that may seem offputting. Rodrigo y Gabriela this ain't, but then again this is stripped down, built-up again American folk. Any band with that pedigree who tackles Modern English's post-punk classic "I Melt with You" deserves all the props they get.
When Jupiter Vinyl work well, it works very well. "Dreams from Clouds" has the sort of delicate guitar sound which has made a success of many an act. Yet when it aims wide of the mark, it does not do so well. The opener, "Magic Soap" being a case in point. Forced folksiness with a twang will appeal to some, but not wide enough to give the band more than a cult appeal.
Corinne Bohjanen has a voice which at times reminds you of Sandy Denny, and if that is not among the highest compliments which can be paid to a female vocalist then I don't know what is. Edward Horey has a voice which, while more than capable in itself, does not always seem to fit with Bohjanen's, "Wabash" being a case in point. Again, when it works well it works very well. But not always.
The difficulty is that the music on his is rather eclectic. At times there are some heartfelt ballads, songs which make you want to sing along, songs which will stick in your head. Other times, there is a distinctly uplifting feel about a track, something which gives you food for thought. Then there is silliness. Not so much silly music, but the sort of music which invites silly dancing and generally daft behavior. Now there is nothing wrong with all three styles in their place. Trouble is, put them all on a single album, and you don't know whether you're coming or going half the time.
Redemption from what may be seen as unfair criticism comes in two ways. Musically, this is an album which is unforgiving if there is slightest mistake in performance. But then it needs nothing to forgive, for this is as well-played as an album as you'll hear from an independent band all year. The second asset is the lyrics. Clear, easy-to-understand and full of some gloriously innovative imagery. Take these lines from "Edit" -
"Don't want to be in your screenplay/Read from the script any more/Can't play the role you've written for me."
Together, the music and the lyrics fit well. At the risk of sounding like a broken record, when it works, it works well.But not always.
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