Raspy crooner Rod Stewart once released a great album called Every Picture Tells a Story. Those only familiar with the Rodster’s recent forays into `Tony Bennett-land’ may think that concept foreign, but it’s true. Rod Stewart was once relevant and now that former album’s title could be again. You see, the two men who make up Pattern is Movement have a new album with ten songs based loosely on ten early 20th century photographs. The music that these two create is grounded in joyful theatrics, like an indie cabaret or hipster musical. Its bubbly nature and gorgeous vocals belie the darkness within the spare lyrics, and therein lay the magic. It’s like a tragicomedy, where the depressed and lonely are singing and dancing until they drop. And speaking of every picture telling a story, you should see the picture of Andrew Thiboldeaux and Chris Ward, the keyboardist / vocalist and drummer respectively. The photo that came with the press sheet looks more like mug shots of loggers as opposed to a melodic indie band!
Andrew and Chris have led a life of this kind of mistaken identity, I’m sure. The pair found each other in strict Pentecostal schools in Philadelphia. But they weren’t exactly singing hymns. No, they formed a Christian hip-hop group and shared an unbreakable bond over Dr. Dre’s The Chronic, not exactly the most Christian album available. Somehow I don’t think “Bitches Ain’t Shit” went over well at `show and tell.’ Over time, that hip-hop duo transformed into Pattern Is Movement. The band grew to up to five people at one time, but has since pared back to the original two members. Judging from the harmonious qualities of All Together, the third Pattern Is Movement album on as many labels, two is all they need.
Pattern Is Movement was rooted in hip-hop, and Chris Ward’s drum style is evidence of that fact. Fills take place as if an MC is about to drop some science, but what we get instead is a little more surprising. Andrew’s vocals are a bright spot throughout this entire album. There’s sweetness to his tender falsettos and staccato `musical theater’ delivery. His keyboards are also downright cute, with some runs sounding as if they are the music for the gateway to Mr. Rogers’ `Land of Make-Believe.’ Of course, having a song called “Trolley Friend” doesn’t exactly take away from that imagery. Songs like “Peach Trees,” amongst others, get downright mathy with odd progressions and time signatures, but is done so beautifully, you tend to ignore creepy lyrics such as “With that I could kill your father.” “Jenny Ono” is a track that really goes over the top in theatricality, hovering between barbershop, 1920’s crooning and deep bass that could back up 50 Cent.
In an echo of what we listeners are thinking while listening to Pattern Is Movement, Andrew sings, “How I just like the sound of your voice.” Listeners may be drawn in by the playful keys and incredible drum fills, but they’ll stay for the dulcet tones of Andrew’s vocals. Ultimately, All Together will yield what your listening puts into it. It’s not an album for the half-hearted. On the surface, one can get oodles of enjoyment out of the singsong vocals, light-hearted keys and urban beats. A deeper examination yields even more rewarding results as one gets a glimpse into every photo they’re aurally documenting. The lyrics, somewhat realistic and disturbing, juxtapose deliciously with the sunny sounds. But somewhere in between, someone’s bound to miss the point, and therein lay the tragedy.
Death Cab for Cutie- The Photo Album
XTC- Black Sea
Fear of Pop- Volume 1