Ask anyone on the street about their idea of `the perfect pop song’ and you’ll get a slew of different answers, with maybe a skewed number favoring those annoying radio hits. People will throw in a few Michael Jackson tunes, maybe even Prince and Madonna, or something from today’s top ten. Sure, Gnarls Barkley is fun, but after awhile, “Crazy” is going to get on your nerves just as much as the Pussycat Dolls’ “Don’t Cha.” Most of the popular hit pop singles are all surface and no depth. Believe me, I can groove to JT’s “Rock Your Body” and enjoy it just as much as the next person, but I think pop singles can be a hell of a lot more. So does Blake Henderson.
Taughtme is essentially the work of one man, Salt Lake City resident Blake Henderson, and as he has shown now in two albums, one man can make a hell of a lot of quality noise. Arms as Traps is the title of Taughtme’s second album, a collage of acoustic and electronic music that will prick up your ears and soothe your soul. If I told you that Arms as Traps combined the ethereal drama of the Cure’s Kiss Me, Kiss Me, Kiss Me, the DIY bedroom ethos of Will Oldham, the experimental beauty of Björk or Sigur Rós and the overarching guitar passion of Bon Jovi, you might think me mad, but this is exactly what is going on with this unique album, and it more than works, it excels.
The title track is the first that caught my attention. I generally tend to have three different levels of listening to new albums. The first pass is tangential, I let songs float by, drifting through me as I tend to other matters. The second is a little more in depth, picking out singular moments and influences. The third is where I finally decide whether I even enjoyed the album and where to go with the review. Arms as Traps pulled off something that only happens once in a great while, it combined all three in one listen. Blake’s songs immediately captivated me, particularly the title track, which resembled a mix between the Cure’s “Like Cockatoos” and “Wanted Dead or Alive.” It’s a miraculous song that I can’t do justice with a few clumsy comparisons.
The rest of the album is just as worthy. Songs like “Where I’m At,” “Twig” and “Mother” astound the ears with its combinations of acoustic guitar and electronic noodling. Blake’s lyrics are stellar as well, with themes of arms and hands running throughout each song. Each track seems to beg for someone’s touch, a gesture such as a held hand or a hug. And after listening to the intimacy of Blake’s voice as he sings through his compelling music, you want to reach out and let him know that you are there, listening and feeling.
Xiu Xiu- La Forêt
The Cure- Kiss Me, Kiss Me, Kiss Me