There isn’t a sound on this earth that can compare to that of a Rhodes piano. It’s a comfortable and warm sound, but it’s also a very cool sound, adding color to soul, trip-hop and more sonically sophisticated rock. It’s on the coolest of records, ranging from Miles Davis to Joni Mitchell, and in every case, it’s the most sublime sound, no matter how subtle. I’m a sucker for its warm tones, so much that I proposed an idea for a band consisting of little more than Rhodes, lap steel and vibraphone. My friend commented, “that would be The Sadies.” But the Sadies don’t do Rhodes. Portland’s Blanket Music, however, do some serious Rhodes, and they also happen to do some slide guitar and vibraphone. Hooray!
Blanket Music employs an intriguing array of instruments, crafting amazing arrangements out of simple melodies and ideas on their newest album, Cultural Norms. Some sunny slide guitar draws you into opening track “You Shouldn’t Have Said That.” Soulful horns and bass turn “Guernica,” a song that appears to be about Picasso’s famed painting, into something approaching a lost Otis Redding or James Brown song. The band Blanket Music is most often compared to is Belle and Sebastian, which is fair, particularly considering frontman Chad Crouch’s voice is uncannily similar to Stuart Murdoch’s. And it’s easy to hear the comparison on a bright, jangly tune like “Press Conference B.” But, of course, Blanket Music aren’t Scottish, and furthermore, they got soul. Seriously, man, these white guys can groove. Listen to the laid back blues of “Soldier’s Story” or the crazy organ-fueled stomp of “Cats Corps.” Now that’s some badass funk.
But what you notice most about Blanket Music is that sweet, sweet Rhodes. It’s all over Cultural Norms, laying down a sweet, gentle backdrop for Crouch’s quirky lyrics. Crouch sings about being a dollar-store manager in the catchy “Keep the Prices Down,” while telling the narrative of a gay couple ready to be married in “Just Us,” a touching little song that could have been played for more Oregonians before November 2. Though not every song features the addition of Rhodes, most do and the album is that much better for it.
Blanket Music may have displayed good judgment in their shopping trips to the secondhand musical instrument shops, but they’re a band, not an instrument. Every song on Cultural Norms is stunning, charming and catchy. They’re a remarkably versatile band with great songwriting chops, and as their name suggests, something warm and fuzzy to curl up to on those cold and rainy nights in Portland, or anywhere else you happen to put them on.
Belle and Sebastian – If You’re Feeling Sinister
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Jeff Terich is the founder and editor of Treble. He's been writing about music for 20 years and has been published at American Songwriter, Bandcamp Daily, Reverb, Spin, Stereogum, uDiscoverMusic, VinylMePlease and some others that he's forgetting right now. He's still not tired of it.