From the very opening seconds of James & the Quiet it seems as if James Toth (a.k.a. Wooden Wand) had gone and recorded an album almost entirely indicative of the Jagjaguwar label. But then it hit me that he isn’t (Secretly) Canadian, and isn’t a member of either Wolf Parade or Black Mountain, so he probably wouldn’t qualify.
One thing that seasoned Wooden Wand listeners will notice to is that Toth is credited as just Wooden Wand here, leaving his band The Vanishing Voice behind. While still attaining to his dreary roadhouse feel, the soupy and reverb filled psychedelics are all but gone yet are replaced with a peculiar haze that is somewhat mind numbing. Toth seems to be more in tune to an immensity of rustic Americana and eerie country that is honed in on by the production from Sonic Youth’s Lee Ranaldo who also plays guitar on the record.
Toth’s voice is a baritone that has the sound of being slowly infused with helium as Jessica Toth’s coos slither in the dimness. His vocal deliverance is composed of surrealistic lyricism that is existential, introspective and passionate like the protest folk of artists like Phil Ochs and Freewheeling era Bob Dylan. Just when you think one song can be weird and chilly like a Cormac McCarthy or William Faulkner novel in that Southern gothic tone, it seems to get even more ominous with each song’s progression, be it the shadowy hobo blues of “Future Dream” and “We Must Also Love the Thieves,” which, like most of the tracks is lightly layered, but happens to rustle like a dried out tumbleweed.
The percussion from Sonic Youth drummer Steve Shelley is rather minimal but once you hear it, it’ll probably give you a rattle, since you won’t see it coming. Word has it that this will be Toth’s last album under the Wooden Wand moniker so it’s as if he’s leaving on a delicate note. Either way, the exterior of James & the Quiet has a welcoming vibe of Southern hospitality that invites you in with open arms but once you step inside, it’s a rather enigmatic and sometimes chilling experience in which the listener realizes what reeled him inside in the first place.
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Destroyer – Destroyer’s Rubies