WEST COAST PERFORMER
“It is difficult to define a band even iTunes calls “unclassifiable” – other than to say that Run on Sentence’s new album Oh When the Wind Comes Down is a stunning and quirky venture characterized by fine musicianship and inventive songwriting. With tunes that span genres (sometimes several within one song) and a semi-narrative that weaves throughout, the album often evokes the literary, intelligent, folky undertones of The Decemberists, though it is considerably more jagged.
Starting off the album is “Carrie Pt. I,” an old-timey, Alpine-sounding folk song complete with yodeling and lilting, waltz-tempo melodies. Next is the jazzy “Carrie Pt. II,” an upbeat counterattack. “November Nights” follows with Echo & the Bunnymen dark lyricism and a beat that approaches the ironic, driving rhythm of Iggy Pop’s “The Passenger”(minus the proto-punk). From there, the album moves into the plaintive cabaret-like, glockenspiel-infused “The Only Joy,” with a rambling patter inserted in the middle. Then the thoughtful and balladic “The Afterlife Pt. I” is punctuated by an energetic coda with strident vocals and horns evocative of Neutral Milk Hotel. The bluesy “Stonewall” and “8th St. Music Co.” creep in next, the latter descending into a Flamenco beat. And then comes the mournful and cynical “Foreign and Awkward,” the tour-de-force message song of the album which opines on the hypocrisies of contemporary society: “They’re ravin’ ’bout the progress of the modern times / American dreams wash into the gutter / Collected by a rat whose pocket’s getting fatter.” Finally, rounding out the collection is “The Afterlife Pt. II,” which brings closure with its strummed wistfulness.
Oh When the Wind Comes Down is an album that could either shine brilliantly or fail spectacularly; with its thoughtful lyrics, attention-grabbing codas, and dead-on musicality – together with the fact that it manages to stay cohesive despite a musical chairs approach to genre – it virtually glows.”
THEÂ BIG TAKEOVER
I often think that a problem with the way we view music is that we think whimsical stuff should only be aimed at infants. Lyle, WA-dwelling (“on the grounds of a Columbia Gorge Winery”)/Portland, OR-recording Dustin Hamman fortunately feels no such inhibitions.Â Steeped in classic folk with occasional zippy hints of ’30s jazz, and using a singing style filled with pints of enjoyably exaggeratedÂ syrup, Hamman sometimes sounds like Squirrel Nut Zippers or Violent Femmes backing Oingo Boingo’s Danny Elfmanâ€”or Ken Page as Oogie Boogie in Elfman’s The Nightmare Before Christmas music. His uninhibited zest
is matched by the joy in the arrangements and his actual craft (try “The Afterlife, Pt. 1”), with twinkling bells, flamenco trumpets, starlit French accordion (which makes me think of AmÃ©lie), brush percussion, and lots of twitching-playful acoustic. Just try not to Like this! You’ll fail.