Wednesday, October 25, 2006
Margot & The Nuclear So & Sos - The Dust of Retreat
It’s sort of a cliché to say, but this album grabbed me from the opening note. That eerie keyboard kicks it off, and I found myself saying, “Hey…this could be amazing.” And then Richard Edwards starts singing, and I was hooked. The opening track, “A Sea Chanty of Sorts” is an amazing song…slow, gorgeous and beautiful. Just how I like ‘em. The first time I heard this album I must’ve listened to that song at least 3 times before I let the second track start.
But, when I finally got past that first track, I found that the rest of the album is nothing to shake a stick at (unless it’s a good stick…in which case, shake away).
You can strip down the songs to next-to-nothing and you’ll find that, at heart, this is a folk group. The songs all sound like they were written alone on a guitar.
And that’s the beauty of this group. They take songs, simple little songs, and flesh them out wonderfully. None of the songs are suffering from too much going on, but, at the same time, you could strip them down to only a guitar and they would sound just as beautiful.
That’s not to say that all the songs are fleshed out. There are a couple of tracks on the album that are stripped down to their essence. “Jen is Bringing the Drugs” and “A Light on a Hill” both fit this description, and both of them are heartbreakingly gorgeous.
The majority of the album, however, has a bit more instrumentation. “Quiet as a Mouse” and “Talking in Code” show off their incredible musicianship, as they break out their entire arsenal of guitars, cellos, trumpets, percussion, keyboards, and more. The songs both seem at the point of bursting, and that’s when Richard transforms from the soft-singing front man into the strained-singing-to-the-point-of-almost-screaming.
However, like so many albums, there are a couple of missteps…but only a couple, and they’re tracked back-to-back, so it’s easy to skip them if you want to. “Paper Kitten Nightmare” isn’t actually that bad of a song…but it’s the chorus that kills it. Really, who wants to hear a grown man meowing repeatedly in a song? I never thought that was a good idea before, and I sure don’t think it’s a good idea now. But, take that out of the song, and it’s pretty good. “Barfight Revolution, Power Violence” isn’t really a bad song, either, it’s just…I don’t even know. To be perfectly honest, I’m not even sure what my problem with that song on…maybe it’s just that it sounds like they’re trying to hard to play like “the kids” are playing these days…all driving, chunky guitars and a chorus of “C’mon c’mon/Get back together”. It’s like Jet or something…and I’m sorry, but I’m just not really digging on that when I’m listening to a fleshed-out folk-pop album. Maybe some other time, though.
All things considered, this is a really great album. Extremely catchy and easy to connect/listen to. The songwriting is amazing, the songs are amazing...it’s just a great album. Plain and simple.
Essential Tracks: “A Sea Chanty of Sorts”, “Quiet as a Mouse”
Favorite Tracks: “Jen is Bringing the Drugs”, “A Light on a Hill”, “Talking in Code”
(Added note: “Talking in Code” may well be the song of the year by the time all is said and done. It is, quite simply, stunning.)