I have mentioned Super Desserts before (way back when no one was reading this blog), but several months ago, I promised them a full review of their album. Barefoot in the Disenchanted Forest really isn’t like any album you’ve seen/heard before. Then again, super Desserts aren’t like any band you’ve ever seen/heard before. For instance, when was the last time you paid $5 for 21 songs with titles like “Under the Guise of Darkness, Clara’s Hands Look Like Ninja Fighting Stars (We Won’t Talk About Her Nose)” on a CD with a 26 page photocopied collage booklet packaged in a 7-inch vinyl record sleeve? For that matter, how many bands have you seen that use glockenspiel, ukulele, banjo, and sitar along with strings simultaneously, all the while reveling in the melodic capabilities of the bass clarinet? Are you starting to get the picture?
Clearly, I cannot address every song, so we’ll just stick with a few of the highlights. “Four Seasons” (yes, each track has an alternate, simpler title) is a great opener, if only because, within 20 seconds, you have a clear sense of how intricate Super Desserts’ instrumental textures really are. (It is, however, a great song in its own right.) The track opens with ukulele, shaker, and glockenspiel for a few measures before adding banjo, harpsichord, and bass clarinet and, finally, choral, sing-along-style vocals. (And that’s the thing about this band, every song is like listening to a group of friends gathered in a pub or someone’s living room or round a campfire with whatever instruments they have on hand, singing and playing for the love of music. And that is just what every Super Desserts show is like. It’s the kind of genuineness that Fleet Foxes might have been capable of were they not from the self-obsessed Pacific Northwest.)
Eight tracks in is the clever two-minute gem, “Ghost Song” (written by Justin Riley). Who could not love a song with lyrics like “And if you are ever feeling lonely / Have a little séance and I’ll talk to you,” or “Maybe I can join a band of angels. / I may not have a body, but I’ve still got soul”. Late in the album falls “Jump Out of the Way”, one of Eve’s. The second half of this song is particularly stellar as the whole band joins the fray in a manner similar to the second half of Nickel Creek’s “Helena”, but in a somewhat stripped down (in volume only) sense. There are several other great tracks worth mentioning, like “Funeral” (“I once made out with my cousin from Cleveland / I thought she was beautiful / When my sister caught us (Oh no! Oh no!) / We were so embarrassed.”) or “Peckin’” (based on a poem by Shel Silverstein and a melody by some local fifth graders) which returns as an instrumental in a blues rock jam at the end of the Southern gospel revival style “Hammock”.
I want close out this review with one last song, my favorite, “Fran’s Song”. Despite an altogether uninteresting title (even the longer version is somewhat ordinary: “Clara is Sitting on a Sofa Next to Her Half-Brother and is Having a Completely Normal Conversation with Him”), it is the standout for me. This is as close as Super Desserts get to a normal song and the only time piano/glockenspiel-ist Fran Litterski (who also wrote it) takes center-stage. And I think it’s that ordinariness that most resonates with me. Her voice is sweet and pleasant to listen to, which further elucidates some of the prettiest, purest lyrics on this record (“I find it beautiful when I see older people holding hands. / I see that and I want it so bad, / but I know that there’s a life to live right here before that comes / I just want to know that it is something that I’ll have.”) Even a “hardened critic” like myself feels that way sometimes (read: constantly) and cannot help but melt upon hearing them here. (I had better stop listening to this song soon, or my nascent crush on Ms. Litterski is just going to get worse, and we all know how badly those things work out for me.)
Anyway, I’ve talked a lot and you’re probably bored, but I like Super Desserts. A lot. So, check out the MySpace and the website and the mp3s (above and below) and the Facebook and our Facebook and I’ll leave you alone now.