Richard Harris, in the now considered classically awful song, MacArthur Park, sang that, after he left his cake out in the rain, he would never find that recipe again! Oh no!
Its hard to believe that these are actually lyrics to a song that was once popular, but I suppose theres no accounting for taste. When it comes to the world of indie rock, there are plenty of proverbial cakes left out in the rain, or in other words, genres that are great, but ruined through saturation. Whether its reedy-voiced bubbly pop, 80s synth photocopying or what seems to be the latest fad, being the next Jesus & Mary Chain, musical genres can go stale as quickly as they arrived. Sam Simkoff has seemingly found an answer to both sides of that analogy, having borrowed several recipes and blending them to the point of breathing new life into a series of genres.
Simkoff, of Washington, D.C., has formulated a sound by mixing the ingredients from other successful acts and making a new cake out of them altogether. The first step involves Simkoffs banjo playing. People who read my reviews and articles know that Im a big sucker for the banjo, and this album is no exception to the rule. The liner notes imply that Simkoff actually played every instrument in the recording of this album, whose name is so long that even this sentence fragment is shorter by comparison, but now Simkoff has a band of six behind him. Add to that banjo some chanting and harmonized vocals and you somewhat have a blend of Sufjan and Akron / Family. But thats not all. Instead of writing about states, you base an entire album on Dantes Inferno. Now were getting somewhere. Then, you add some keyboard and computerized blips and bleeps and theres a dash of Postal Service! Finally, the band needs a name, so why not follow the current trend and use the word, wolf, but to disguise it, write it in French!
With that kind of recipe, indie record companies were sure to come calling, and Sub Pops Jonathan Poneman did just that, signing Le Loup to his new offshoot Hardly Art label just after initial signee Arthur & Yu. Throne , (theres no way Im writing that whole title again) is Simkoffs debut and its quite a feat. Songs can at times equally follow the pattern of any of the above listed acts, but also retains its own identity thanks to Simkoffs able thematic songwriting ability. Tracks such as Planes like Vultures act on several different levels, as infectious sing-along, introduction to the albums theme and poetic meditation. To the Stars! To the Night! is probably the most Sufjanish of the bunch, and is subsequently delicate, whispery and awfully pretty. Le Loup (Fear Not) is another standout, blending the aforementioned artists works with a little bit of Isaac Brock timing and delivery and Arcade Fires build-up and background vocals.
Le Loup really has something here with this recipe, and is probably the best combination of tastes since Reeses put chocolate with peanut butter (or is that the other way around?). Throne flows as seamlessly as an Animal Collective record, but has as many standout pop / folk moments as an Iron & Wine album. Thats a recipe for success in anyones book and theres no question as to why Jonathan Poneman jumped on this signing so quickly. And, just as an added bonus, and another similarity to Sufjan, Le Loup has another indie rock poster girl, the comely May Tabol on guitar, taking on the role of Stevens Katrina Kerns. Look for fanboys to start posting live photos on their blogs soon.
Akron / Family- Love is Simple
Sufjan Stevens- Seven Swans
The Postal Service- Give Up