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Saturday, September 22, 2007

Tinyfolk: Bill (2007)

Tinyfolk’s new album Bill is the most epic lo-fi album I’ve ever heard. For the uninitiated Tinyfolk comes from the mind of Russ Woods (and sometimes Meghan Lamb) and is from Indiana. On occasion Russ’s voice reminds me of Daniel Johnston, but his standard instrument of choice is a baritone ukulele. As Tinyfolk he writes quirky, cute songs with a dash of longing behind all of them. I’ve had the pleasure of playing a show with him a few months back and he was so nice and just as adorable in person. But I should get back to Bill. If you were expecting another “Love Is A Thing” you are gravely mistaken. Right out of the gate “Antlers” begins as a fantasy-like spoken word exchange before melting into a baroque world of animals and beasts and then it gallops into a desperate rhythm questioning a girl’s motivation. And this is only in the first song. My favorite song on the album “Dear Apollo” comes next and showcases Russ’s unique voice killing that Daniel Johnston comparison I made earlier. The way he sings the chorus “And they cry out to me” is simply sublime (you can only sing it loudly when sung aloud). On the entire album Tinyfolk greatly increases his repertoire with expansive and interesting arrangements not limited to: samples of bird calls, banjos, piano, and synthesizers. The exponential increase does not take away any of Tinyfolk’s charm and in fact his voice is the center for all of the songs on Bill. The nostalgic sounding, but forward thinking “Really Blue: A Tale of Unrequited (Perhaps) Romance and Lizardry” really grinds itself deep into our own feelings towards the past and longing. Russ sings, “The skies looking bluer than I ever remembered it being during high school/it’s like you and me we’ve got a sea way up above our heads/it’s really, really, blue/And I know you could never love a lizard boy like me/but on a big wet sunny day like this I like to just pretend/so don’t take me seriously” His voice belts earnestly while a beautiful synth line weaves its way along the poetry. “You Can Call Me Al” a cover of a Paul Simon song from his album Graceland is a fantastic cover because it is sung like it isn’t one. It follows the arrangement pretty closely (using the same horn arrangement but on synths humorously this time) but I would never know that it was a cover if I hadn’t heard the original! I know some might say the point of that previous statement is obvious, but some covers reveal their original artists quite easily (Any Beatles cover pretty much). The other cover on Bill is also a highlight. “(There's) Always Something There to Remind Me (written as “Always Something There” on this album)” is a Burt Bacharach song, but I will always remember the 1980s version from the band Naked Eyes (Those "Best of the 80s" compilation ads played every five minutes when I was a kid!). This song is the last song on the album and returns to some familiar territory from his previous album "Platapeasawallaland": A Rainy-Day Owlbum. It’s simple, cute, and Meghan sings on it! It is very effective at making this infectious tune even more infectious. Bill is a sprawling epic of an album, but maintains a high level of intimacy and a bit of humor that makes listening fun and more enjoyable each time. I put it on more and more each day.

Tinyfolk-"Dear Apollo"

Tinyfolk on myspace
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