There is one word for the way I have been feeling recently: unmotivated.  Can we just get that out of the way?  Great, thanks.  I apologize.  We’ve had snow days for the past three days (don’t ask how much snow we’ve gotten–it’s really shameful.  Hampton Roads is not capable of handling any amount of snow whatsoever) and so now I have the opportunity to sit down and listen and write and not have all my energy zapped by my day job.  The only problem I have now is that the cat is using me as his monkey bars.

Because my cool high school friend Reid gives me music sometimes, I have been listening to Evening Hymns’ Spirit Guides.  I was going to do a write-up on that first, but now I have discovered Ohbijou and I think because they are sort of Evening Hymns’ roots, I will write about them first.  Ohbijou is from Canada, and something cool is that in 2007, they put together a compilation CD for Toronto’s Daily Bread Food Bank called Friends in Bellwoods, which is named after a house where 2 of the members live in Toronto, and they just got their friends together and made an album, I guess.  I like those kinds of things, I think they’re pretty cool.

But I’m not going to talk about Friends in Bellwoods because I’m going to talk about their most recent not-Friends-in-Bellwoods (2009) album, Beacons.  It is one of the albums that reminds me that I should never make “best of” lists because I can never listen to enough music to know if I’m really covering the best.  Who knows what’s out there that hasn’t been heard?  I wish I had heard this before I’d made my best of 2009 list.   Beacons was released by Darling You Inc., under exclusive license to Last Gang Records, and it features some of TIH’s favorite instruments, like glock, harpsichord, violin, electric piano, and mandolin.  The atmosphere of the album is perhaps what makes it so special(duh).  Reminiscent of The New Pornographers or Mates of State, bass and/or piano and/or strings often provide a nice driving bassline as a foundation for more layers upon layers, building into eventual catharsis…my favorite.  “New Years” and “Memoriam” are both perfect examples of this.

Something else I should mention: Casey’s voice = beautiful.  I’ve heard some complaints from mostly really annoying people who I don’t like very much in the first place about how “indie girls all sing the same way.”  Well, if you think “indie girls all sing the same way,” you don’t listen to enough good music.  I understand where the sentiment comes from if you have only ever heard Paramore and Flyleaf and A Fine Frenzy, but if you have heard the White Stripes and Stars and Samantha Crain and Belle & Sebastian and God Help the Girl and Fiona Apple and Jenny Lewis and Ohbijou, you would think before you spoke.  Also, I’m sorry, but what is indie in the first place????  I still don’t know and refuse to concern myself with it.  All this to say, Casey’s voice is uniquely lovely and flexible–haunting, strong, and delicate.  So if you are under the impression that “all indie girls sing the same way,” you have 2 choices.  You may stop reading this blog and continue complaining, or you may listen to Ohbijou and sit in awe at the vocals.

And Casey’s haunting voice matches the lyrics.  This is an album for winter, I think, exemplified on “Black Ice” (the winter brings a heaviness/this weight is a hand/over the things i shouldn’t say/there’s black ice, no sign) and “Cannon March” (mother shoot those cannons off/destroy this wicked place/the winter brings peculiar things/to thaw and leave no trace).  The lyrics are poetry, beautiful even apart from the music and fantastically complemented by it.  All in all, I suppose the album is pretty dark, but there are traces of light and hope that make it anything but depressing.  I don’t know.  I enjoy it.

Some of my favorite tracks are “Wildfires,” “Eloise and the Bones,” and “Make It Gold.”  “Wildfires” is great because it drives, and Casey’s voice is especially well-suited to the long phrasing.  I adore the ups and downs of the phrasing, the syncopation of the melodic line juxtaposed with the constant driving percussive downbeats and bassline.  I don’t know what I love about “Eloise and the Bones”–the lyrics aren’t so much lighter, but the sound is, and I think I really appreciate that.  “Make It Gold” has precious music box feel at the beginning which is done really well–I find that bands can easily screw this up and make it feel gimicky, but Ohbijou doesn’t–instead, it’s tender and a bit nostalgic, until again, the layers build and end in catharsis.  My favorite thing.

If you want to listen, check out www.myspace.com/ohbijou.

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