Blanket Music Press




Millions of songs have been written about love, so it’s so refreshing to get a reminder that love can still be written about in a unique way, one that avoids clichés and relates to real life. Blanket Music’s new album is actually two, both about love. The first, <i>The Love</i>, is a complete expression of devotion, from singer Chad Crouch to his beloved. It’s built on small moments and details, not the hollow symbols that so much art about love is built around. Crouch’s admissions and observations are by turns playful, poetic, intimate, and humorous. Best of all, they’re set within truly ambitious pop music, so rich a musical landscape that the lyrics aren’t foregrounded, even. The full sound of 2004’s <i>Cultural Norms</i>, with classic soul and pop-radio touches complementing Crouch’s idiosyncratic songwriting style, has been expanded even further. This music is big, involving, alive. The second album <i>Love Translation<i/> builds on the feeling of community inspired by such <i>band</i>-oriented music with a covers album showcasing love songs by fellow Portlanders, including The Decemberists, Bobby Birdman, Corrina Repp, Graves, Reclinerland, and Amy Annelle. These unique songs again demonstrate that love isn’t a narrow subject, but an expansive one. And Crouch’s interpretive skills are impeccable, as he never takes the easy route. Every cover is top-rate, especially a sparkling version of M. Ward’s “Undertaker.” The two albums together are a remarkable exploration of love’s many facets. (
by Dave Heaton



Blanket Music’s double- disc release The Love and Love Translation is literally a labor of love for Hush Records founder Chad Crouch, bassist Dave Depper (Norfolk & Western, The Village Green), Greg Lind and Michael Johnson (Parks and Recreation). In the spring of 2004, the four met at South Portland Branch Library and created a virtual catalogue of all the jealousy, quirky moments and downright absurdities of love, in their own words and the words of friends.

In a seemingly daunting task, Blanket Music manages to write a song referencing the band KISS and the actual act of kissing, a feat second only to the combination of the same two elements achieved in Wilco’s “Heavy Metal Drummer.” The outcome is easily the most fun song on The Love.

Perhaps the most visual moment of The Love is “Insurrection,” in which Crouch sings with all the twee pop bravado he can muster in challenging any would-be admirers of his lover. Over a sweet poppy beat, he sings, “I would seriously damage his souped-up ride / I’d turn it on its side / I would kick his popular jock ass … I’d smear him in the grass / If he makes a move on you.”

Love Translation features the interpretations of songs from artists who are associated in some way with Hush Records, and finds Blanket Music in their finest form. That’s probably a testament to label head Crouch’s talent in finding talent as much as it is a testament to the band’s adeptness in making the music of others work for them.

Their rendition of Corrina Repp’s “I Take on Your Days,” moodier than any songs on The Love, begins with off-kilter guitars, clapping and the beautiful lyrics, “I think of your mother, I think of your father / And I’m homesick after all.” Repp’s song stands just as strongly next to “Red Right Ankle” by Colin Meloy of the Decemberists and “Undertaker” by M. Ward.

The strength of both albums, in fact, rests upon Blanket Music’s ability to create their own works while only enhancing the works of others.


Written By: Ian Shuler
Rating 8.0
With a name like Blanket Music, it’s not too difficult to imagine what’s in store. Blanket, the band’s original moniker, is abstract enough for a bouquet of indie varietals, but the addition of “Music” can only mean one thing: sweet and tender indie-pop. Chad Crouch, bandleader and head honcho of Portland, Oregon’s Hush Records, formed the in-house group of label-mates for a friend’s wedding. More than 6 years later, they’re still rounding out legit Belle & Sebastian comparisons with their own skilled undertones of soul, jazz and bossa nova.

Never aspiring to be the next forgotten twee pop group, even Blanket Music’s debut in 2000, Nice, was more than it’s title let on. 2002’s Move expanded on the old Brazilian thing to include samba and afro-Cuban elements into their cuddlecore kit. Cultural Norms returned the group to more traditional forms, but ambitiously scraped its knees on the cement of 2004’s landscape. You can’t say Crouch isn’t trying, though. The new release from Blanket Music is a double-header: The Love and Love Translation. The band gathered in the former South Portland Branch Library, currently under renovation by Crouch, to self-record a set of originals, and additionally ended up with an entire album’s worth of love covers. Lovers, if you will.

Unlike 69 Love Songs, to which this collection should not be compared, the songs of The Love and Love Translation take an optimistic angle, requiring no higher education, but maybe a bit of antique innocence. It arrives perfectly with the beginning of spring, when the enthusiasm for change comes much quicker than the change itself. There’s also an unmistakable earnestness to the discs. The repetition of “I Love You” in the song of the same name is almost overwhelming. Simultaneously, Crouch’s dainty Stuart Murdoch-like vocals are understating in the soulful R&B style of Marvin Gaye.

The Love is best for its 60s-style R&B and pop. Crouch’s guitar strumming is summery, Greg Lind’s drumming is impressively limber, and Michael Johnson’s Rhodes covers all seasons, from rain patter to rays of “California Love.” Dave Depper lays down memorable bass lines to makes some of the album’s choicest tracks, including the bouncy “Slide,” the Curish, pizzicato-plucking “Insurrection” and the funky “Kiss.” “Insurrection” is one of the catchier songs, but also finds the soft-spoken Crouch at his most urgent, willing to throw it all away. “Stand to Love” and “Unabridged” drift from chamber pop into swinging Kinks tunes, Ray Davies included. “Day By Day” a bossa nova “Judy and the Dream Of Horses,” offers the wonderful line: “A rose by any other name still draws blood.”

Although it’s the trend to release double-discs, the second usually being a DVD or short collection of demos, Love Translation is not a “bonus disc.” What sets Translation apart from The Great American Songbook or even Cat Power’s Cover Record is the songs are all written by contemporaries currently or previously involved with Hush Records. This “lost tradition” goes hand in hand with an era Blanket Music’s vintage sound might have come from, and shows comradeship among a musical community.

The two most recognizable tracks are the ballads “Red Right Ankle” (The Decemberists) and “Undertaker” (M Ward). Neither of the two covers offer up the distinctive vocals of the originals, nor are they very modified. Still, they rest gently in this Portlander mix. “I Take On Your Days” fills in some of Corrina Repp’s empty spaces, bringing her sparse Edith Frost soundscape to a mournful Reindeer Section drive. Blanket Music trades in the accordion and female backup vocals to make a spunkier version of Super XX Man’s “Collecting Rocks.” Another favorite is the low-key space-funk (think, Flaming Lips) of “I Must Admit That I Love You” (Bobby Birdman).

On the whole, Translation is not as engaging as The Love. The love is there; the cover choices just happen to be sleepier than the pop-perfect originals of the first disc. It’s hard to expect much more from Crouch and the boys. The Love is a straight-faced teaser for good weather and good times, and the covers are what you’d expect to fall back to when it’s still rainy and cold: Blanket Music.


It is hard not to feel a little sorry for Hush Records. Despite having a stellar roster of bands onboard, almost every single one has been overshadowed by one of their former bands — the Decemberists. Even the label founder Chad Crouch’s band Blanket Music have managed to slip by almost unnoticed despite four albums of increasingly impressive, gentle indie pop. But try as they might, Blanket Music will always make nice music. Whilst in the past, they’ve tried to fight that, The Love/Love Translation — their new double album — finds them giving in. As the title implies, this is an album about love, and for the most part, it focuses on happy love too, which is a welcome change. Initially, Blanket Music have a real knack for sounding like Belle & Sebastian, mainly because the vocal similarities between Crouch and Stuart Murdoch. Yet on subsequent listens, The Love — a collection of 11 of the band’s own songs — takes on a personality of its very own. It creeps up slowly on the listener, never begging and eventually getting the attention it deserves. Disc two, Love Translation, collects together 11 cover versions of love songs originally sung by other bands who have had some kind of connection to Hush, such as Norfolk and Western, Kind of Like Spitting, M. Ward and, naturally, the Decemberists. In some ways, this is the better disc of the two, simply because it feels like the band are pushing harder to distance themselves from the original versions of the songs. It might lack the warmth of The Love, but provides some much needed contrast to the warmth and comfort of the band’s own songs.


I have been really digging this disc of covers by Blanket Music lately. The band is the project of Hush Record’s Chad Crouch and though I’ve never really heard his stuff before, I’m really glad I scored a copy of disc 2 of their latest double CD release.

The Portland, OR band decided to make their 4th release a double CD with a slight catch. The first disc is called “The Love” and consists of an original “collection of love songs rooted wholly in earnestness.” However, the 2nd disc is called “Love Translation” and features the band covering different artists that are friends of the band.

This is a pretty neat idea, because they’ve covered some pretty familiar indie names… two of the most prominent being The Decemberists and M. Ward.

Actually, even if it weren’t for the covers (which are superbly rendered), I’m really digging Blanket Music’s mellow approach. Everything revolves around Crouch’s voice which is sort of a cross between Dean Wareham and Stuart Murdoch. The musical interpretation is tuneful and laid back, with Rhodes piano sprinkled nicely throughout the tracks.

I actually listened to most of the original songs by the artists back to back with the covers which was quite fun. One of the highlights for me was the cover of Norfolk & Western’s “Impossible”… I confess I’m a huge fan of theirs so I knew this track already. Blanket Music’s version is slightly faster and a bit looser in feel, but nevertheless a great interpretation.



Oh man, seriously, lesson learned: I need to check my e-mail much more often because words can’t even described how excited I was when I recieved an e-mail from Hush Records about Blanket Music! (quite possibly one of the most talented bands ever). They have a new album coming out, Love Translation and though I have only listened to a few tracks, it is amazing. There’s even a Decemberists cover of Red Right Angle that could be the best new cover ever!

Do yourself a favor and download those tracks and buy the album! Your ears will thank you greatly!




Blanket Music has always sounded “nice”; that’s even the title of their first album. But as founder/frontman/Hush label boss Chad Crouch declares, he’s sick of being “nice.” Their earlier records subscribed to lush bossa nova and soothing, acoustic indie rock, cushioning lyrics that, while smart and witty, never had a victim, and never broke the peace. Blanket Music was nice, and Crouch has decided that doesn’t play in today’s world.

Crouch opens with both barrels in “You Shouldn’t Have Said That”, where he threatens a rock critic over a bad review. (Chad, point taken– but John Zorn’s “Perfume of a Critic’s Burning Flesh” is, y’know, a catchier track.) But after that, Blanket Music’s third studio album, Cultural Norms, takes subtler aim at today’s “cultural norms”, from the everyday (fat kids, filesharing, Grand Theft Auto) to the newsworthy: a gay bride or groom waiting to be married by Gavin Newsom, a soldier’s eye view of Bush’s Thanksgiving press op in Iraq.

Although the lyrics are heavier this time, the music is even catchier than Move, from “I’m Fat,” where the hook swirls from a Swiss chocolate-flavored accordion, to the Rhodes and horns on “Guernica”. Building on sweet and simple indie pop in the vein of Belle and Sebastian, Crouch doesn’t let a song go by without a great tune and swinging arrangement, aided by members of the Portland indie syndicate including the Decemberists’ Chris Funk and Jenny Conlee, Reclinerland’s Michael Johnson on Fender Rhodes, and best of all, the rhythm section of bassist Dave Depper and Greg Lind on drums, who bring muscle and class to Crouch’s breezy strumming.

But if Crouch is sick of “nice,” that doesn’t mean he’s become nasty– and his best weapon is his frailest: his voice, a thin reed that sounds ragged and vulnerable to the elements. While his vocal style fits the band, his best moments come when he sings a capella, cooly drawing you in by singing in a vacuum. Most of the lyrics take the form of a monologue, and while they’re sometimes too literal or limited by their topicality, they catch the confusion and doubts of the characters, who never decide if what they’re seeing is wrong. When Crouch is handling topics as serious as war or as banal as wage-slavery, that tact is crucial: He never hits you over the head with an idea, and what better way to bemoan, say, the trivialization of “Guernica”, Picasso’s major statement against facism, than in a song so breezy that you can dance to it a dozen times without ever hearing the lyrics?

Crouch understands the difference between getting in people’s faces, and inviting them to come to him. This style of indie pop often takes the latter route, making it easy to overlook but that much more seductive. Maybe Crouch feels that in his nicer, earlier days he didn’t work hard enough for the limelight, but he easily could have erred in the other direction by pitching headlong into the cultural wars. Instead, he found a perfect balance, and this is his most compelling album.

-Chris Dahlen, January 12, 2005


I have a theory that Chad Crouch’s Blanket Music is the musical equivalent of an Ira Glass piece from “This American Life.” Crouch delivers his songs in the same disarming and witty vein as Glass plays out his narratives, and both men have a kinetic energy that gives an edge to what each of them respectfully does, which is to give a running social commentary on modern American society in the most personable terms possible. Cultural Norms is the band’s third release, and its lofty goal of making the “Great American Album of our time” doesn’t miss the mark by all that much.

Whether it’s the Dollar-store manager in “Keep The Prices Down” or the infantryman home on leave from Iraq in “A Soldier’s Story,” Crouch has a knack for getting under the skin of his protagonists and unraveling their tales while always keeping the bigger picture in focus. Touching on politically relevant events, Crouch does so with the grace of an experienced storyteller, never force-feeding his views down the listener’s throat, but rather allowing the stories to unfold and develop at their own pace. That he can show such restraint gives his songs an added depth that a more heavy-handed songwriter would miss.

Anchored by the super-tight rhythm section of Dave Depper (bass) and Greg Lind (drums), “Cultural Norms” runs the gamut of American popular music. Mixing blues, Motown and country with soul and jazz, “Cultural Norms” is a go-getter of a record. It’s both respectful of tradition and artistically ambitious in its range. By using all the major American musical forms, it’s as if Crouch is celebrating their cultural importance while simultaneously acknowledging their ultimate demise in an increasingly sanitized and crumbling American civilization. Crouch counters the seriousness of the subject matter with a sly sense of humor that shows itself in the music as much as in the lyrical content. The album offers a drollness that is hard to resist, and Crouch thankfully never stoops to just being a smart-ass.

Perhaps the album’s biggest obstacle lies in Crouch’s voice, which is a combination of Gordon Gano (Violent Femmes) and Stuart Murdoch (Belle and Sebastian), and is a bit of an acquired taste. It took a few listens before I settled down and got past it. Once I did however, the realization of how great these songs were was mind-blowing. A good comparison would be Wayne Coyne from Flaming Lips, whose voice also requires a little patience before you familiarize yourself with it and can move on to experience the whole brilliant package.

Cultural Norms is one of the best releases I’ve heard this year, and offers something for everybody. Peppered with jazzy horn sections, tasteful strings and guest appearances by The Decemberists’ Chris Funk and Jenny Conlee, it’s a must have for any serious music fan. It’s one of those albums that you can continually get something out of, and I’m still being constantly amazed by its originality and intelligence every time I spin it. I don’t know if Cultural Norms is the “Great American Album of our time,” as the 21st Century is still very young, but it’s certainly perched itself as the one to beat so far. -Mark Horan 11/20/04


The third full-length album by Hush Records president Chad Crouch’s own band Blanket Music is a bit more musically wide-ranging than the group’s earlier records, which stuck to the basic twee/indie/jangle pop aesthetic. Cultural Norms doesn’t exactly rock out — as always, the A+B description of Blanket Music is basically “Belle & Sebastian with the guy from Mercury Rev on lead vocals” — but the guest addition of the Decemberists’ Chris Funk and Jenny Crouch on pedal steel and accordion, along with new bandmember Mike Johnson (whose ’70s-style electric piano perfectly decorates songs like the anti-consumerist character study “Keep the Prices Down”) and the judicious use of strings and horns, adds a richer texture to the sound without overwhelming Crouch’s clever lyrics. Said lyrics are considerably sharper than before as well; in keeping with the album’s title, the songs on Cultural Norms cast a rueful but not cynical eye on modern-day society. Songs like “A Soldier’s Story” and “Guernica” take the Iraq war as their subject but make their points without simplistic sloganeering, and “The Filesharer’s Lament” (which strongly recalls the dry wit of the Decemberists’ Colin Meloy) is an equally impressive review of the homeland scene.


High-profile artists like Bruce Springsteen aren’t the only ones releasing politically-charged records these days. On its third album, Cultural Norms, Portland’s Blanket Music abandons the usual topic of love to address the strife of the hard-working American. Like Springsteen, lead singer Chad Crouch uses fictional characters to convey the message. Crouch assumes the life of a soldier, a retail store manager, an overweight kid and even a cat. While the narratives are never short on details, they generally lack a compelling story. The light, jangly “Keep The Prices Down!” begins, “I’m the general manager/Work in price point retail/Everything’s just one dollar/They say it’s a growth sector.” The song hints at commentary on the mistreated working class, but Crouch fails to make a significant point. The lyrical focus isn’t the only change from previous Blanket Music albums, which contained touches of jazz and bossa nova. Often compared to Belle & Sebastian, Blanket Music differs by channeling the influences of Motown, country and even swing. It blends these genres well, creating an eclectic brand of pop. Crouch’s vocals resemble a more lucid Conor Oberst, but he’s got a unique, almost foreign, way of phrasing his lyrics. He pronounces many words as if he’s never heard them before—accenting the wrong syllables. On the quick and bouncy “Just Us,” Crouch asks, “If I’m a character, what would my motivation be?” It’s a good question: Cultural Norms is filled with political references (“Down with the leader that duped you,” sings Crouch in between light-hearted doo-wops on “Press Conference,” while “Soldier’s Story” depicts a president crying during his speech to soldiers. The right words are often here, but paired with the songs’ quirky keyboards and sparse drumming, the social commentary lacks a profound weight.

—Kevin Lo


The new Blanket Music album opens with a song that starts off sounding like the Youngbloods’ “Get Together” before becoming a soulful rock song that offers a humorous take on serious freedom of speech issues (it’s about a rock band that gives a death sentence to a member who makes seditious statements) . Then there’s a New Orleans jazz-inflected song about “Guernica” and fascism, with obvious relevance for today. What is this, are Blanket Music expanding their sound to take in a wider array of American musical forms while broadening their songs’ perspectives to look critically at today’s political, social and cultural climate? That is the case, and the result is grand and complicated, yet 100% easy on the airs, with the band mixing their usually streamlined, stylish quiet-pop sound with R&B, blues, folk and jazz sounds to great effect, while also turning a wide lens towards today’s world, bringing up all sorts of issues and ideas in a manner that’s both joking and dead-serious. Why are we so worried about oil prices? What is the mind-state of today’s soldier? How much Internet activism will it take to defeat Bush? How would Jesus react to the fact that gay people can’t get married? How do reality-show losers get their lives back to normal? These are the important questions of the day in Blanket Music’s minds, and their songs insightfully probe them, while also being fun and snazzy and lovely to listen to. – dave heaton


Hush Records label impresario Chad Crouch celebrates the release of Cultural Norms, the latest full-length by his own overtly tranquil outfit Blanket Music. Following in the down-stuffed tradition of Blanket Music’s previous releases, Cultural Norms has an enveloping stillness that’s difficult to penetrate. The record purports to explore the “contemporary hot topics” from simple perspectives within American society, but does so with a patience that makes the internal narratives almost opaque. Still, the band seems to have found it’s footing remarkably well in Norms, their finest release to date, and a welcome addition to the Hush Records swelling discography. ZAC PENNINGTON


This isn’t a bad thing: Blanket Music strikes first as the mellow side of the Velvet Underground with a post-op Nico in a Hawaiian shirt. Nearly un-amped guitar accompanies a delicate dusk walk on a beach with well-practiced uneasy vocals–as if the beach is covered with jagged rocks.

All of a sudden it dawns on me that this is rocking. The bass lines walk up a flight of stairs with the grace of three drinks and feeling sexy, and then cliff dive skillfully back into range. And what is this? The subtlest disco beat ever! The VU didn’t do disco! For that matter, Belle and Sebastian don’t do funky lounge jazz, though they probably wished they could after they heard this.

The voice is a perfect whisper of tone that sometimes quivers…sort of like
Connor Oberst’s, but it’s a mature and complex voice. It’s a voice that knows the golden triangle, the law of threes, the importance of emotion and all that other stuff that’s pleasing to the human senses.

It’s a collection of instruments fighting to see which one can be the most well-behaved, refusing to be that guy that plays a little too out. It’s a sonic twist on Little Red School House, especially as the album plays on, flawless for what it is accomplishing stylistically, and imperfect by intention. Are they playing in the living room, or is this still the CD?!- Jef Hoskins, November 12, 2004


There isn’t a sound on this earth that can compare to that of a Rhodes piano. It’s a comfortable and warm sound, but it’s also a very cool sound, adding color to soul, trip-hop and more sonically sophisticated rock. It’s on the coolest of records, ranging from Miles Davis to Joni Mitchell, and in every case, it’s the most sublime sound, no matter how subtle. I’m a sucker for its warm tones, so much that I proposed an idea for a band consisting of little more than Rhodes, lap steel and vibraphone. My friend commented, “that would be The Sadies.” But the Sadies don’t do Rhodes. Portland’s Blanket Music, however, do some serious Rhodes, and they also happen to do some slide guitar and vibraphone. Hooray!

Blanket Music employs an intriguing array of instruments, crafting amazing arrangements out of simple melodies and ideas on their newest album, Cultural Norms. Some sunny slide guitar draws you into opening track “You Shouldn’t Have Said That.” Soulful horns and bass turn “Guernica,” a song that appears to be about Picasso’s famed painting, into something approaching a lost Otis Redding or James Brown song. The band Blanket Music is most often compared to is Belle and Sebastian, which is fair, particularly considering frontman Chad Crouch’s voice is uncannily similar to Stuart Murdoch’s. And it’s easy to hear the comparison on a bright, jangly tune like “Press Conference B.” But, of course, Blanket Music aren’t Scottish, and furthermore, they got soul. Seriously, man, these white guys can groove. Listen to the laid back blues of “Soldier’s Story” or the crazy organ-fueled stomp of “Cats Corps.” Now that’s some badass funk.

But what you notice most about Blanket Music is that sweet, sweet Rhodes. It’s all over Cultural Norms, laying down a sweet, gentle backdrop for Crouch’s quirky lyrics. Crouch sings about being a dollar-store manager in the catchy “Keep the Prices Down,” while telling the narrative of a gay couple ready to be married in “Just Us,” a touching little song that could have been played for more Oregonians before November 2. Though not every song features the addition of Rhodes, most do and the album is that much better for it.

Blanket Music may have displayed good judgment in their shopping trips to the secondhand musical instrument shops, but they’re a band, not an instrument. Every song on Cultural Norms is stunning, charming and catchy. They’re a remarkably versatile band with great songwriting chops, and as their name suggests, something warm and fuzzy to curl up to on those cold and rainy nights in Portland, or anywhere else you happen to put them on. -Jeff Terich 11.17.2004



Blanket Music Move

Although the members of Blanket Music live in Portland Ore., thier hearts can be found on the southern coast of Spain. Or any other summery locale where the atmosphere is as carefree as the gentle bossa fueled rhythms found on the bands invitining sophomore album. You’ll be ready for a holiday after listening to the whisical, unhurried “Costa Del Sol,” on which a young couple lounges under a thatched umbrella by the milky green sea, watching the skyline (“Resorts are multiplying as Europeans flock to the sun”) and making sly observations (“The elderly enjoy their ice cream, part of their all-inclusive deal”). Then grab a Mai Tai and play “Karaoke,” a song in with enough kitsch for a Trader Vic’s chain restaurant. (Move comes complete with a cocktail umbrella embedded into it’s CD case.) With a nod to the Brazilian master Antonio Carlos Jobim, Blanket leader Chad Crouch keeps the pop leanings closer aligned to Belle and Sebastian as opposed to The Jim Ruiz Group. Esperanza Spalding (teen leader of the likeminded Noise For Pretend (another Portlandgroup with a day-at-the-beach-mentality), provides dreamy backup vocals. Perhaps Crouch and Co. should consider a name change to Beach Blanket Music. – John Elsasser



Blanket Music Move

Blanket Music have the So-Cal beach blanket lingo sown pat on their second release. Only they happen to hail from Portland, land of the perpetually overcast sky. Still, the band creates music that’s perfect for a surf and sand vacation–it’s relaxed, almost effervescent. When vocalist Chad Crouch instructs you to just “Shut up and sway your hips” (on “Hips”), you can’t help but close your eyes and shimmy along. The nonchalonce that pervdes “Hot Designers” and “Get Togetha” emerges as the coolest affectation this side of Stereolab. Supported by a minimalist set up of bass, drums and a couple keyboards (it’s all about portability after all), these kids show they know a thing or two about breezy Tropicalia. So even if the nearest beach is a Miami postcard tacked to the mini-fridge, at least Blanket Music’s miniature mambo can allow us all a sweet urban retreat. – Kate Silver



Blanket Music
[Hush; 2002]
Rating: 7.8
Living on the New Hampshire seacoast, I can relate to the state of mind that might drive one to bossa nova music. I was on the beach this weekend on a sunny day, and the air was still freezing. The local clam shack and ice cream stand had opened but the people in line were wearing windbreakers; this year’s scoop girls are only just starting to build the biceps that they’ll take to school next fall.
It doesn’t get hot enough in Portland, Oregon for music like this, and maybe that’s why Chad Crouch and Blanket Music recorded Move in the South Pacific, on balmy Island 734-001 of the Bikini Atoll. They’re joined by the beautiful voices of Esperanza Spalding (of Noise for Pretend) and Corrina Repp, who sound as smooth as ice against a hot torso. “Shut up and sway your hips,” they implore, and the tropical songs and warm recording couldn’t sound more like an afternoon at a bar by the beach. They even put a cocktail umbrella in the spine of the disc, to illustrate what you’re missing.

Crouch says this is party music, and it is, though it’s also good hangover music: soothing and free of shrill noise. The hooks are so subtle and laid-back that it can take a few listens to appreciate Crouch’s catchy songwriting– most notably on “K – A – R – A [breathless] O – K [keep it coming] EEEeeeeeeeee,” where his droopy-dog vocals and clever lyrics dance over a catchy guitar riff. Greg Lind’s drumming is limber but restrained, and even the drum machine that augments the music is nicely integrated– as on the hot jazz-meets-IDM “Itchy Popcorn,” which builds to speaker-shaking bass. Crouch is a low-key frontman with a thin, melodic voice, perfect for the tone of this record, and he and Ross Seligman play killer staccato lines on guitar.

I’d expect American bossa nova to be as bad as other Americanized ethnic creations, like American ska, or American chop suey. In addition to having a stand-up band, Crouch succeeds by not pretending to be anything he isn’t– instead of posing as a smooth island loverboy, he sticks to wry lyrics and mundane topics. He has three jobs: as a musician, as a designer, and as the head of this label; and he likes to talk about the need to slow down. Like the ‘to do’ list that’s set to a beautiful tune on “Walk the Dog,” or his potshots at hip visual artists in “Hot Designers.” He writes witty love songs about (though not necessarily to ) his “incredible” girlfriend, who he describes so sweetly in the liner notes that I winced hoping they haven’t broken up since this came out. For example, the cutesy interplay in “Tap the Beat” (He: “And if I lost my legs…” She: “I would put you on my back/ And I would grab things off the shelf for you”). Hey, guys, get a room!

On a song like “Costa Del Sol” there’s genuine yearning in Crouch’s voice, the note of sincerity that makes it compelling and not just exotic. What does he yearn for? Maybe his girlfriend, though she probably hangs around plenty; maybe something as global as world peace, as on “Get Togetha.” But more than anything, it sounds like Crouch wanted to vacation in a warm place and to party. And on the defrosting boardwalks, in the last gusts of New England’s waning chill, that’s good enough for me.
-Chris Dahlen , May 13th, 2002



Nice CD – Hush Records
So the band’s called Blanket and the album’s called Nice. And that’s just what this album is, “nice”. The cover of the album is all white with a small, neatly rolled-up blanket towards the bottom corner, along with the song titles and label info. At first you see the blanket, then the name of the band, and you think, “What the.”, before realizing it is simply the idea of comfort that is meant to be projected. And, assuming the music is genuine, how can one argue with that? Almost every little kid had a blanket growing up, or some soft thing to which he or she became attached. Blanket is mostly the product of Portland, Oregon’s Chad Crouch, who runs Hush Records and is quite the wearer of hats in Northwest indie rock circles. Much of his previous work was solo stuff; here his songs are fleshed out with a full band, along with guest appearances by piano, violins, vibes,
accordions, and flutes, quite tastefully and subtly put to work in the background, “behind” the songs, which run from jazzy upbeat bossa nova to sad-core slo-folk. Crouch’s voice holds the songs together, crossing the mumbly tendencies of Pavement with the femme sophistication of Belle & Sebastian; there is quite a degree of depth to his voice and he can hold out a note when he wants to. Comforting but not boring, Nice could be generic but chooses not to be. With that said, however, this is a record for like-minded musical tastes and won’t likely achieve massive new converts to its genre of slow, soft pop music. Enjoy the niceness. (Jon Wright)



With “Move”, Blanket Music’s biggest surprise is how deep and immense their sound is, without ever raising the volume or overwhelming the listener. Combining elements of lounge, Motown soul, bossa nova, and traces of electronica, and all filtered through a delicate, quiet pop lens, it’s amazing how effortless they make it all sound. These songs simply glide, so confident in themselves that they feel no need to announce themselves or proclaim their beauty.

The title track gets things, well, moving, with a jazzy rhythm, gurgling electronics, and a guitar and bass progression reminiscent of Tortoise’s “TNT” album. But Blanket Music easily pushes aside any cold, calculating post-rock labels with “Sway”, a gentle, Caribbean-tinged ballad that culminates in a gorgeous chorus beseeching you to just “shut up and sway your hips”. It’s a request easy to accomodate with the track’s undulating percussion and melody, similar in sound to Patrick Phelan’s gorgeous work on “Parlor” (though a bit more upbeat and a good deal less introspective and mopey).

“Get Togetha” starts off with a gentle soul-like intro, as vocalist Chad Crouch sets the mood (“Right about now I think it’s clear that we just aren’t communicating/We need to get togetha and have ourselves a little rap session”), spreading the love before the music deepens with vibes and sparse guitar melodies. “Karaoke” feels, quite fittingly, at home in some late night cabana on the strip. One can almost imagine the band in powder blue tuxes and evening gowns as they sing the dreams and sordid tales of those engaged in that most popular of lounge activities (“She loves to sing the saddest ballads and jazz standards of Bille Holliday/From the stage there is a caterwaul/This guy can barely follow the dot on the wall”). The only thing is that they do it without a hint of sarcasm.

“Costa Del Sol” takes us back to warmer climates, a ballad that pays homage to all of those places we love to go when it’s January. Crouch’s velvet voice is perfectly languid here, like a smoother Matt Wignall, as he sings over lazy acoustic guitars and shuffling percussion that sound like they were composed on some warm Havana beach. Or if not, they should’ve been. If nothing else, it goes great with that little cocktail umbrella that’s part of the packaging.

“Itchy Popcorn” is the band’s ode to IDM, but rather than blast the listener with damaged programming and torrential beats, it’s the band’s chance to delve into funky rhythms and more swooning vocal harmonies. At one point, electronics do begin to take over the song, but it never loses its gentle, unassuming nature. And the album closes on a reprise of “Move”, this one weaving in more electronics, and sounding even more like Tortoise with a heavy tropicalia influence.

But the music is only one part of what makes this album so enjoyable. At the core of these songs is a velvet wit, resulting in clever lyrics that never resort to smart aleck attempts to impress you with their smarm. For example, “Sway” takes a little swipe at pop culture pundits with lines like “Although he doesn’t mean to condescend/Sometimes he just seems mean/He likes to point out flaws/To demonstrate his intellect”. But rather than try to take the guy down a peg or two with devastating mockery, Crouch and Co. make a simple appeal to that most basic of human responses to music – “Shut up and sway your hips”.

“Tap The Beat” finds two lovers proclaiming their devotion to eachother with imagery that at first seems bizarre, but soon becomes touching – “And if I lost my arms/And if I lost my legs/I would put you on my back/And I would grab things off the shelf for you”. It’s a funny picture, but Crouch’s interplay with his female cohort gives it that right amount of heartwarming.

“Hot Designers” takes another swipe at pop culture know-it-alls; “He scours his wardrobe for something that says ‘I’m unpredictable’/That black, zippy jacket, it was cool but now it’s wack/He’s talking to the mirror/He says, ‘I think white is the new black'”. We all know people like this, people so intent on being cool that they’ll say the sun sets in the east just to be different; Blanket Music nails the image perfectly. And thankfully, it’s done without an acerbic word in the bunch.
I just love albums like this (but they’re also so darned frustrating to write about at times). I get as much enjoyment picking apart the music, with all of its subtleties (hence some of the frustrations), as I do the lyrics. But when I just sit back and listen to the CD, everything flows together so nicely that it’s like I’m listening to it for the 1st time, rather than the 50th

Even after listening to this album so many times, its simple appeal to just “shut up and sway your hips” rings as true now as when I first heard it. Perhaps better than any other Hush release, it illustrates the label’s “anti-rock” stance. This isn’t a release that will smack you upside the head or announce itself for your attention. It waits patiently to be found, and when it is, it lavishes its beauty (not to mention wit and soul) on the listener.

Reviewed by Jason Morehead



Blanket Music
By Eric Greenwood
It would be easy not to notice this album if you dropped in at a party, and it just happened to be playing in the background. The music is so laid back and innocuous that it just hangs pleasantly in the air. You probably wouldn’t know why you were tapping your feet, but each song has a secretly magnetic pull. You may even wake up the next morning humming one or two of the tunes, unable to remember where you’d heard it before.
Blanket Music dabbles in lounge, jazz, bossa nova, and retro guitar pop with sweet male/female harmonies. The music does not engage you directly, but if you engage it, you’ll find yourself charmed by the breezy hooks and smooth flows. Vocalist Chad Crouch receives his share of comparisons to Belle & Sebastian’s Stuart Murdoch, which is justifiable to a degree, as they both possess a hint of the ghost of Nick Drake, but I think Crouch sounds more like an infinitely less neurotic Gordon Gano of the Violent Femmes. And maybe a hint of David Byrne.
With the obligatory vocal comparisons out of the way, I can concentrate on Crouch’s golden goose: his lyrical ability. “Hips” may sound like the perfect accompaniment to an afternoon spent lounging by the pool, but if you listen closely, you’ll hear a passive-aggressive diatribe against music critics. It’s pretty ballsy to say, “Hey, you’re a condescending prick, will you review my album?” But when you couch your cynicism in a hook as infectious as “shut up and sway your hips” it’s hard to take offense.
“Tap The Beat” is equally as intoxicating, both lyrically and musically. A subtle bass groove with a Jamaican flair underscores Crouch’s harmony with one of his female back up singers. It’s a strangely quaint love song, pondering the scenario of what two lovers would do to help one another if they were to lose their limbs: “And if I lost my arms/and if I lost my legs/I would put you on my back/and I would grab things off the shelf for you.” The vocals are delivered in such a breathy, carefree way that it almost negates the altruistic sentiment, but they fit the lovely sway of the song perfectly.
Blanket Music couldn’t be a better name for this band, musically, but the lyrics will take a bite if you aren’t careful. Crouch aims his vigilant pen at “hot designers fresh outta school” who “gotta hustle to be cool.” He hits the yuppie nail on the tech-savvy head with these lines: “he’s going out to drinks with them/and he’s in a fix for sure/turtlenecks tossed on the floor…that black, zippy jacket, it was cool but now it’s wack/he’s talking to the mirror, he says ‘I think white is the new black.’”
On “Walk The Dog” Crouch rambles off a list of mundane chores while one of the female back up singers intones “Tick…Tick-tock.” The drums shuffle repetitively as an acoustic guitar plucks a maudlin melody. Crouch’s sincerity is hard to dismiss. Some would call such an outlook disturbingly cynical, but you get the sense that Crouch takes pleasure in what others tend to ignore. He even goes so far as to call “to-do lists” a form of “inadvertent poetry.” “Cityscape” is the biggest burst of energy on the album, and it is also Crouch’s best moment vocally. The unexpected bend of notes as he sings “Elevator up/elevator down” is luminous.
Not many bands could make spelling out the word “Karaoke” so melodious, but Blanket Music pulls it off with gusto and a sense of humor. This album is full of tiny triumphs like that. Blanket Music creates smart, danceable music that feels like a summer breeze and nods respectfully to the genres that clearly inspired it. Move is a thoroughly engrossing album, if you take the time to see what makes it tick. You may have even heard something off it and didn’t even know it. So, pay attention next time you’re tapping your feet at a party and don’t know why.



Blanket Music
(Hush Records)
The other day it was 90 degrees here. 90 degrees fahrenheit already and it’s only halfway through April. In contrast, sometimes we’ve been known to get snow this late in the year, but with the high temperatures already shown it looks like 2002 is going to go down in the recordbooks as another power grid cruncher. That in mind, it’s a good thing that Move came out when it did, because it’s a nice little 40-minute trip of light, poppy music that somehow manages to make the oppressive weather slightly less so. As the little cocktail umbrella lodged in the spine of the jewel case would suggest, this album is all about fun, baby.
Although they’d released a debut full-length entitled Nice, my introduction to Blanket Music came on their Split EP that came out a couple months ago with Noise For Pretend. On that 8 track release (4 of which were from Blanket Music), I was introduced to their penchant for catchy tracks that mix sincerity with a fair amount of tongue-in-cheek humor. With a mix of bossa nova, light jazz, pop, and a touch of electronics, they carve out a niche of 12 tracks that even the most jaded curmudgeon would have a hard time not tapping their foot and humming to.
The album begins and ends with short, instrumental album-titled tracks that set things in gentle motion and wave a smiling goodbye respectively. A pretty acoustic guitar melody weaves its way over some watery, gurgling electronic sounds before the disc launches into one of the groups masterworks of catchiness, “Hips.” A slightly reworked version of the same track that was featured on the aformentioned EP (the only track on this disc that appears on both, incidentally), it starts the disc in motion in earnest with great guy/girl vocal harmonies and breezy backing. “Tap The Beat” follows up with lyrics that would be rather surreal and macabre in nearly any other setting, but the group turns it into something that’s downright touching, as the hopalong instrumentation again provides a great backing.
The only time the ‘fun’ quotient threatens to derail things a bit is on spoken-word chorus of “Got To Be My Own Way” in which lead singer Crouch and a female singer exchange words in a conversational way while the music continues on. Still, though, this album is about the fun, and things like that are allowed. Some good-natured fun pokes its way into lots of different tracks as well, including pretentious art-school kids in “Hot Designers” and the IDM scene in “Itchy Popcorn.” You’d have to be thin skinned to take any offense at either, especially after reading the liner notes, which offer up quite a bit of amusement by themselves (album production and programming by Dan “The Automaker” Nobukura Tackymirror).
It’s also to the groups benefit that they can turn something as seemingly mundane as to-do lists into a hummable track, but that’s just what they do with “Walk The Dog.” Crouch simply runs through a list of what sounds like an entire Saturday’s activities while female vocalists add almost metronomic “tick-tocks” behind him. Again, it’s light and breezy, and anything else probably wouldn’t work. So it goes for the album as a whole, and it’s refreshing in a way that’s clear of pretense and hidden agendas. They just want you to sway your hips and move a bit, what’s so wrong with that?
Rating: 7.5 Blanket Music Nice

With their debut release, Nice, Portland, Oregon’s Blanket Music has come bursting onto the quiet-pop scene, and if things work out, they could make a pretty big splash. Fronting the quartet is Chad Crouch, whose smooth singing and intelligent lyrics generally wind up seeming like the main part of the song while never overshadowing the rest of the music. On the record’s first track, “DŽjˆ vu” and “Sao Paulo Graffiti,” Crouch, who has released solo records on his own Hush label, sounds so much like Steve Malkmus that the indie rock legend’s upcoming solo record might be unnecessary. On the rest of the album, the band plays upbeat yet quiet music with a jazzy feel to it. With a slight bounce and vocals that grow increasingly similar to Stuart Murdoch’s with each listen, Blanket winds up sounding so much like Belle and Sebastian that it becomes almost laughable. Making up for their lack of originality is Crouch’s apparent sincerity and their flat-out ability to pen a pretty melody and accompany it with the right amount of everything. Whether it’s with violin, accordion or keyboard, Blanket is a band that is able to recognize the right move for their songs and more importantly, they have the guts to do it. (mc) -Basement -life


Blanket Music: Move

It’s just an hour or so after President Bush’s pronunciamento re: Homeland Security, and while I fully expect to be getting my proscribed UPC-esque security code tattooed to the back of my neck (or perhaps my forehead) in the morning, now I find the time to write about some record by this stiflingly hot band Blanket Music. Of course everybody knows by now that the plans of the Bilderbergers (and the CFR and the New World Order and of course the Freemasons) are ever closer to complete realization, as attempts to fill the populace with fear and paranoia have become increasingly more blatant over the last few weeks and fortnights. The thing is no-one gives a flip anymore anyway; it’s all overkill, as the Globalists could have finished everything up months ago with not enough shits being given by anyone for anything to prevent it. As long as everyone has their own personal space squared away and have access to the entertainment we all so direly crave and need to survive then nobody will notice their freedoms are all gone ’til it’s too late. We sit by idly as the government that, at least through its own negligence, allowed terrible things to happen now pledges to reform itself. Who’s to say they are able to perform such a task, or that they should even be trusted with it?

Well, frankly, I’m getting ahead of myself here, as none of this means a damn thing to me, not as long as I’ve got the new Blanket Music record spinning on the ol’ Samsung. Such a spectacular set of suave songlings surely slathers a soothing balm all over them conspiratorial jitters. 33rd Degree Blanket Musician Chad Crouch conducts his cohorts through a tastily subdued LP full o’ breezy breeziness and light-hearted yet serious-minded, vaguely tiki-fied, sophisticated pop musicks that shall entrance both the hardened misanthrope and the easily entrancable dullard alike. The gently assertive musical backing, always quite tuneful and in tune, shims suggestively about the listener’s brainpan, with a pleasing lilt reminiscent of exotica classics from decades past. Words such as “slinky,” “sultry,” and “sexually suggestive” may occasionally be bandied about in reference to these beautiful sounds. One song, “Tap the Beat,” resembles the overrated and underperforming semirock group Pinback. Other songs strongly resemble the sensitive swagger of the Sea and Cake.

Blanket Music’s sound, hard to pinpoint, but easy to recognize, colored with strokes from lounge, jazz, Afro-Cuban, and easy listening, refreshes and relaxes the weary ears of the hard-suffering music fan. Crouch is a smart fellow, as evidenced by choice lyrics from songs such as “Karaoke” and “Hot Designers.” His songs are almost like little stories sometimes! Hot damn. In “Karaoke,” it of the Polynesian persuasion and islander dressing, the real-life hi-jinks of a semi-pro karaokian who sings the “saddest ballads and jazz standards” provides Crouch with a vital look into the kitschy trappings of a hollow and demoralized culture. “Hot designers fresh out of school / gotta hustle to be cool,” according to the chorus of “Hot Designers,” and here again Mr. Crouch takes a glance at the emptiness of our times, but with an eye more jaundiced than in the sweetly respectful “Karaoke.” On other songs other words are sung, and of these words some attain the authoritativeness of a selective sampling of the very lesser poets. High praise, indeed, for a pop songwriter. Combine this literary bent with a Stuart Murdoch-like voice and you’ve got a group that is similar in tone to Belle & Sebastian without ever really sounding much like them.

Yes, good things abound on Blanket Music’s album Move ! Good enough to make even the most worrisome of individuals forget the dark specter of tyranny that looms specter-like beyond the horizon. Soon these United States and independent principalities abroad shall all be held powerless in the outstretched palm of the insidious Globalist conspiracy and their New World Order, as citizens, both pop-stars and normal assholes alike, tumble precipitously into the flame, like those stupid stupid sinners in some dumbass painting placed alongside Jonathan Edwards’ “Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God” in a junior high textbook. Where will your precious Santa Claus be then, Jimmy? Where, goddammit, where? -Garrett , 6/10/02


Blanket Music
What could be better than a whole album worth of sophisticated, easy-listening indie-pop? To me it sounds like the perfect soundtrack for a trip to a sunny, Mediterranean beach. It’s all here: jazzy, Latin-influenced rhythms that wouldn’t sound out of place on a David Byrne album, the smooth vocals of a lead singer that sounds like a cross between Stuart Murdoch and Gordon Gano, and pleasing female backing vocals. Blanket Music are from Portland, and this is their second album. – Jason



This band does not tour beyond Portland often, but their Blanket Music is all about movement. They strap the indiscriminate past and future of popular music to their backs, then travel, within each Blanket song, through the kitchens, family rooms, shopping districts and music halls of Earth. Theirs is a worldly, domesticated music that evokes the unity of people and cultures. Vibes are steered to the positive, with the poetry behind the occasional criticisms (“Hot designers fresh outta school / Gotta hustle to be cool”) always softening the bite. A track like “Karaoke” serves as a typical Blanket Music celebration, as it’s a party thrown in honor of life. Over a swaying Zimbabwean groove that shows Jez Miller and Ross Seligman as potential heirs to the Bhundu Boys’ throne, the song pays tribute to kitsch, soul, friendship and the hearts of lonely, rejected and accepted people everywhere. “Walk the Dog”, which catalogs the many routines of a day-in-the-life, also brings out the group’s strengths; it goes far beyond the hustle and bustle of its “tick tock” chorus by its plea to “Wake up, wake up, it’s important”. The phrase calls to mind Galway Kinnell’s plea to a suicidal in Mortal Acta, Mortal Words , and paints exhaustion in a new light, finding the good in just being alive.

Blanket Music’s peace-and-harmony ideology, whether stated directly (“Get Togetha”) or abstractly (“Karaoke”, “Tap the Beat”), never depends on the lyrics to push it through. The ever-layered music does the job quite effectively, nullifying the listener’s ability to describe it without run-on sentences composed in dozens of languages. Pegging “I Got to Be My Own Way” as bossa nova-meets-Sonny and Cher might be accurate, in part, but it ignores too many of the ideas and influences that pop up during the piece, from the traditional chimurenga guitar styles to the smell of sand and the volleying voices of the sexes. Thematically, the final line (“that place where you love to love me”) even takes you down a Kierkegaardian route, showing the love you have to have in order to let someone else love you.
If I was forced to describe Blanket Music’s aesthetic, I’d suggest “restlessly at rest”. The music goes down smoothly, and could serve as background to both picnics and bed-ins, but is also intricate and serious, as if the band is unwilling to rest until its fusion of styles (and the politics that underpin that fusion) infects every corner of the world. Chad Crouch and his extraordinary group of players want to comfort you like a siesta, and let their dream-worlds guide you to the powerful ambition of loving your neighbors — and their diverse music collections — even more. — Theodore Defosse


Rating: 8.1
Every so often, circumstance tosses you an album that reminds you how refreshing and nourishing a collection of songs can be. Nice is just such an album. Chad Crouch’s latest project, Blanket, is so effortlessly hearty and rich you might think a stout, smiley-eyed elderly woman with a kerchief on her head and a husky Slavic accent ought to be serving it to you in heavy earthenware. Only there’s an airy sophistication to it that begs for a more upscale food metaphor.
Of course, you’re obliged to start with the great vocals. If Crouch’s voice were but one food item within the larger, guilt-ridden multi-course indulgence that is Blanket’s Nice , you might say that it’s a soup (prepared by Belle and Sebastian’s Stuart Murdoch, then spat into by the Violent Femmes’ Gordon Gano) to open the meal and prime the palette for the eclectic parade of delicacies to come, while setting an easy tone for a long night of postprandial conversation.

Nice is Chad Crouch’s first album released under the Blanket moniker and finds him newly and comfortably entrenched in a band setting. It suits him very well. Crouch, a painter, Portland music fixture, and head of Hush Records, is best known for his fine solo album, Portland, Oregon . While his songwriting skills were quite evident before, Blanket seems to have given Crouch a more spacious and better equipped stage on which to let his ideas play themselves out.
For starters, he utilizes a wonderful spectrum of sounds. Flute, organ, violin, vibes, piano, and accordion are all strung seamlessly and inconspicuously like dyed wool strands onto a sturdy loom of bass, guitar and drums. Another “sound” Crouch uses to great effect is silence– the silence between the various timbres of the instruments, the spaces between notes, and the quietness spaced throughout his expertly phrased and timed vocal melodies. The immediate impression is one of sparseness and underdeveloped arrangement, but as the album progresses, you’ll notice how much more suggestive the sounds become from all the spare room.

The songs on Nice encompass disparate style elements but never feel contrived or borrowed. From the loungy percussion of “Déjà Vu” that sets the album in motion to the folk-cum-bossa-nova of “Bossa Rev,” the songs never lose sight of their prime directive. Which, of course, is the execution of contemplative, enduring, and sometimes even haunting pop gems. One obvious example of this is the way “Bossa Rev” adorns an Antonio Jobim-esque melody and rhythm with a Western-style blues slide guitar solo, yet does it so naturally that questions of style aren’t allowed to impinge on the listening experience.

Though I’d be hard pressed to whittle this bunch down to a best-of list, definite standouts include the beautifully mournful, vibraphone-jeweled “Kitten”; the spritely, euro-jazzy insouciance of “Déjà Vu”; the wispy “Cliché Lines”; the sauntering “Sexy Ways”; and the imagistic, organ-laced “Pigeon.”

A funny thing about this album. The reason it sounds so much like a live band is precisely because the individual songs were basically recorded live. As a result of that immediacy, as well as the loungy feel of many of these songs, the natural tendency while listening to Nice is to drift off in thought or take up an unrelated activity. Though the music makes for truly wonderful background, and could cast a soft, soothing light over any scenario, sitting down for an attentive ride through this album is a wholly different experience. For all its airiness, occasional bounciness, and live performance feel, Nice makes a remarkably intense and enduring listen. So much so, in fact, that I’ll hold off making some idiotic pun with the word “nice,” and just exhort you to find a copy.
-Camilo Arturo Leslie


Blanket Music
Move [cd]
Hush Records
Hmm. What’s this? A new feeling? Can’t-Quite-Make-It-Out. Wait-yes! I… really like this! Further dispelling rumors that they are actually Belle and Sebastian’s evil twins, this Portland sextet moves away from the histrionic pop stylings of the debut Nice to create a unique collection of songs that this writer can classify only as “nü lounge.” Urging listeners to “shut up and sway your hips” (“Hips”), Blanket Music refuses to rock but instead moves Move with all the ferocity of a classic cocktail party, before everyone’s had a few too many Martinis. There’s even one of those little drink umbrellas snapped inside the jewel case! This is the record I put on when I want to wear a smoking jacket and pretend I’m smooth. – Jeremiah Wade


Blanket Music/Noise for Pretend
split CD [cd]
Hush Records
Well, I’m already on the record as far as my take on split EPs (see Copeland/Pacifico Split review in this issue), but here we have a shinning (rare) example of a well put together blend, highlighting a complimentary pair of bands that both not only hold their own, but the listener’s attention as well. Steeped in cocktail-jazz-noir, both of these Portland-based bands serve up delightful upscale blends of jazz and pop that feels like a fine dinner at a curbside bistro. Blanket Music seem a bit more French-inspired than Noise For Pretend, who seem to take things a little more tongue-in cheek, perhaps because of the tastefully and subtlety added electronica. It must be noted, however, that neither of these two combos fall prey to the pretentious air that surrounds many of the ilk; are they playing for the listener, or just showing off their chops? Here, both bands seem to have a charming balance of both. – James Reader


Blanket Music/Noise for Pretend
For the majority of my life, I have associated Portland with the larger-than-life figure of Ken Kesey. The city and its state seemed a place for arty, literate lumberjacks with bottomless energy, a love for nature and a willingness to take risks. In Portland roamed the mountain men who wore french-cuffed shirts. They laughed hard, they drank hard, and they made their lives hard. They wore Martin Luther cufflinks in Catholic Church and Casper the Ghost cufflinks in the bad side of town. Portland has always seemed to be a place for orneriness, good humor and big plates of food, and this split release makes the case that Portland still resonates with Kesey’s hearty spirit.
Noise for Pretend and Blanket Music have similar tastes. They like hard-hitting drums, guitars that can recreate the slow bossa nova dreaminess of Joao Gilberto and Gilberto Gil, and the sweet flexibility of the human voice. In two of my favorite tracks, Noise for Pretend’s “Money Penny” and Blanket Music’s “Bunny”, Esperanza Spalding and Chad Crouch sing sweet echoes of hummed Ms and Os into the wind. You travel with the voices as you would along Buenos Aires waterfalls, following each song to its conclusion with a wide-eyed look of awe. As with the best from Blueboy, it’s as if you’ve been thrown into a world of exotic fantasy, ripples from which permeate your every day. You want your dreams to remember that music and make it their soundtrack.

Other songs are fascinating for the way they play vocalist’s strengths against their lyrics. Blanket Music’s “Hips” is the most radio-friendly of all, boosted by an exhilarating, Corrina Repp-led chorus (“Shut up and swing your hips”) and a fervent, well-ministered declaration (“It’s not too late to have fun”). Here, one sees how well Crouch’s mumbling, near-scat approach works against the politely seething lyrics (“his knowledge of pop culture suffers from being so discriminate”), which are rife with trigger-happy opinions. As Blanket Music tracks go, “Hips” is uncharacteristically focused on the subject matter, and requires Crouch’s vocal delivery to be abstract enough for the pop song to breathe like a pop song should, in a state of timelessness.

Whereas Blanket Music’s “Song” takes a different route, with the lyrical spontaneity and randomness of a quilt honoring William S Burroughs, it’s still kept rather tightly within a pop format. Noise for Pretend are looser in their melodies, but equally engaging thanks to the dark overtones of Spalding’s bass and her gift for delivering retro descriptions (“his addiction is making poor young girls cry”) with sincerity. Where Crouch’s voice worked wonders by cutting-and-pasting favorite moments in that hipsway portion of your brain, Spalding succeeds by bringing the whole platter to you in an appropriately glamorous and jazzy fashion. Noise for Pretend’s best work, like “Chalk Boy” (“Started as a chalk mark on an empty wall”), holds an air of mystery, but you’ll be equally impressed by the way they can inject life into moments gleaned from West Side Story (“Some have tried to resist his charm / But they end up just like the others on his arm”). — Theodore Defosse


Blanket Music

The first time I heard Chad Crouch was on his folk album about his city of preference, Portland, Oregon . His voice seemed like the type you only heard when “the world looked peaceful”, and it was a voice set — as with those of so many Hush artists to follow — against music far more interesting and complex than standard singer-songwriter material. One song began in sing-speak about how this land is your land, this Portland of song, and it helped signal what the record would eventually mean to me. The sixty minutes of music on Portland, Oregon is as much an identifiable landscape, a city seen with eyes and ears and tapping toes, as it is strong, tasteful acoustic fare that makes friends relax and gamble on your homemade soups. Despite the gentleness of the melodies, it’s not a CD I’ve ever played before sleep, as the songs are too picturesque: they’re the type that inspire thought just by pressing you, beat after beat, against images you can strum toward.
Since then, Chad Crouch’s landscapes have become far less identifible to me. It’s not that I’ve had any problem enjoying his material — the soulful side displayed on Stray , or the Chad-Meets-Tortoise work found on later comps — but it’s been like trying to look at Neil Young’s Trans as an entity in itself. I end up saying “Is this really Chad?” far too much while listening to the songs.
The European pop of Blanket is more new territory for Chad to explore with a gifted group of musicians (Greg, Ross, and Jez, formerly of Brigantine), but the results are simply too resplendent to waste time thinking about the artists involved in their creation. Recorded live, the band sounds as if they’re playing in your room as accompaniment to all the moments you spend staring outside. While they suggest a jazzier, less political Belle and Sebastian, they also waltz through the unexpected melodies of Blueboy, and the blissful escapades that a creatively active life always offers. And I should add that they don’t remind me at all of Pedro the Lion, as their webpage suggests, except in terms of the sincerity which emanates from their music.
Among the highlights are “Deja Vu”, “Sexy Ways”, “Kittens”, “Pigeon” and “Love Song #9”, the catchiest French/English pop duet that you will ever hear. That said, there seem to be no disappointments. I’ve had an advance copy of Nice for the last two months, so I can easily attest to its staying power — and to the continual surprises it offers listeners, such as when an exotic guitar or flute pops in to say hi. Nice frankly makes me almost hope that Chad explores this angle further. Given his past, that seems unlikely to happen, but pop fans like myself should be plenty grateful that he and his posse have at least stopped by.
— Theodore Defosse



This is a tricky one to write about, just because all I can think when I listen to this is I like this! I like this guy! I don’t know him, but if he makes music like this, he must be O.K. (This philosophy of equating nice music with nice people must be why so much of my adolescence can only be regurgitated under hypnosis.) Singer-songwriter Chad Crouch dances with genre, moving effortlessly from pop to accordion-tinted (accordion provided by Miss Murgatroid) bossa nova and jazz, making for some awfully sweet folksy, borderline-acoustic guitar and piano songs that invoke images of sunny drunk days on the beach, lazy afternoons, and not growing up. -Holly Day


I was a little frightened when I first put this on, because the first two songs venture dangerously into Steely Dan-jazz territory, and no, I’m not old enough to turn into my dad just yet. The album straightens up and does good things after the first two tracks, though, swerving into serious dreamy calypso music and mellow pop punctuated by drum solos, steel guitar and highly unusual samples just in time. Unlike the previous Blanket Music album, there are both male and female voices on this (courtesy of frontman Chad Crouch, with Corrina Repp and Esperanza Spalding backing him up), and it works very well here, despite the fact I absolutely loved the last record and was loathed to see Crouch deviate in any way from what he had laid down in that one. -Holly Day


After a short instrumental intro, the Portland, Oregon-based band Blanket Music start their debut full-length Move with a song instructing over-analytical music “experts” to just “shut up and sway your hips.” It’s a wonderful song, but it makes review-writing a bit intimidating, because they’re right, really; it’s easy to over-think things and miss out on the sheer pleasure of just listening to a song and seeing how it moves you. And Move will move you; this music will carry you a long way. Blanket Music play a delightful, inventive, bright form of pop music flittered with jazz and tropical flourishes. Singer Chad Crouch has a laidback style of singing which is charming in its own unique way. Crisp guitar, pretty backing vocals and light programming touches help to make a truly fresh sound. The whole album is drenched with an aura of fun–something that should be noticeable before you even put the CD on, by the presence in the clear jewelcase spine of a genuine drink umbrella (definitely something I’ve never seen before in CD packaging). But the umbrella’s a minor element next to the music, which describes the world in a way that’s both humorous and sincere. There’s songs about karaoke bars, over-commercialized beaches, fashion designers, the mechanics of cities and the poetry of day-to-day life, along with friendly encouragements for everyone to get along, understand each other, take care and have fun. All in all, Blanket Music come across as one of the most good-natured bands around, yet their appeal is about more than just personality and likeability–they make exceptional music that shines in its own unique light.–dave heaton


(Google Translated)

The Blanket is the band of Chad Crouch, the boy most likeable, let alone titular of the huge Hush, label as well as disowned how much immense one as far as the quality of the productions. Gotten passionate of diagram, Chad put on label nearly for joke the some year makes with the single aid of its Mac and a masterizzatore. After little time eccolo with a containing catalogue some of rarest gems of the entire musical panorama American. This disc is the confirmation: a rock austico of author, strongly influenced from the inglese/scozzese school ( Drake or Belle & Sebastian ), but also from some “post” pointed out to the Joan Of Arc (even if the voice of Chad it is 100,000 times better here and here than that one of the good Kinsella) or Sea And The Cake . Classically acoustic pieces, others bossanova ( Bossa Rev , exactly, nearly Calexico ), to capolavori small little little spray you of jazz from room, until arriving to the wonderful Cliche Lines , perfectly POP, as little others in turn know to make, first between which Elliott Smith . And who adores this last one will not be able makes itself to scappare this disc.


The brainchild of Hush Records president Chad Crouch , this group originally began after being asked to perform at a friend’s wedding reception. Consisting of everything from jazz and rock to bossa nova and pop, Blanket Music continued to perform around Portland, Oregon. Compared often to Belle and Sebastian as well as Nick Drake , Blanket Music released its debut effort, Nice in 2000 on Hush Records. A split EP with Noise For Pretend was well received by both press and fans. Blanket Music also released a split EP with Reclinerland . In 2002, Blanket Music rounded its sound by adding two female vocalists, Corrina Repp and Esperanza Spalding . The group released Move in 2002. — Jason MacNeil


Blanket Music/Noise For Pretend ( Hush Records )
Blanket Music and Noise For Pretend, two jazz-inflected pop groups, are showcased on this 8-song split CD from Portland, Oregon-based Hush Records. With four songs from each band (in both cases one from an upcoming full-length and three exclusive to this), the CD is a delightful introduction to two groups that meld playful styles with superb melodies and musicianship. Noise For Pretend, featured first, are the more overtly jazzy of the two, playing sexy, luxurious songs with hints of swing and bossa nova. Their sparse sound highlights each element, namely classy guitar, bass and drums, and the heavenly voice of singer/bassist Esperanza Spalding. The songs are have a relaxed, after-hours feel that complements lyrics which deal with secrets and mysteries, as on “Momagranite,” about a mom who creeps through the streets in fancy clothes after her kids are asleep, and “Pants With His Halfway Down” about a seducer with the devil “deep inside him.” Blanket Music’s sound is slightly more pop-rock, though with lilting jazz rhythms and subtle programming underneath. With a relaxed but fresh energy, the opener “Hips (radio edit)” is a sweetly crooned request for everyone to loosen up a bit, to “shut up and sway your hips,” as the chorus goes. “Bicycle Thief,” a cityscape portrait/story, and “Song,” a self-conscious take on songwriting, have a more spoken-sung-rambled vocal delivery which conveys just as much style. Each group also has one song without lyrics, where vocals are used as another instrument instead of a communication tool. These tracks help showcase the musical talents of the players, though those skills aren’t really in question at any point on the CD. As sweet and luscious as the kiwi on the album cover, the music by both bands here is not only memorable and enjoyable but fresh and downright exciting.–dave heaton


Noise For Pretend/Blanket Music
Split EP
(Hush Records)

What better way to introduce a couple of bands to people than through the cheap split CD EP? Sure, the split 7″ or split 10″ is still a good choice, but if you want to offer up more than a mere brief taste, the CD is the obvious choice. Of course, the other side of an introduction split EP is that it’s also best to contain some music that won’t be available on the upcoming full lengths, so that if you like the band in question, you won’t end up with two copies of the same music (which this release also does). Although Blanket Music has already released one album and been featured on several other samplers, this sampler teams them up with one of the newest artists on the label and because of singer crossover, it actually works as more of a cohesive piece than one might expect.

Noise For Pretend takes the first half of the release mix a touch of jazz into their sometimes breezy, sometimes sultry pop songs. Lead singer Esperanza Spalding rightly takes front and center on each track (and rightly so), with breathy vocals that sound somewhat like Bebel Gilberto. Whether she’s singing about ladykillers (“Pants With His Halfway Down”) or nothing but be-bops (“Money Penny”), her torch song voice will have you wondering what they’ll do next.

Keeping sort of the same feel going, Blanket Music also creates a warm set of pop tunes, but they fall a bit more into bossa nova territory with the addition of electronic percussion and rhythms to the lineup. I know it’s been mentioned in several reviews of the group before, but lead singer Chad Crouch sounds uncannily like Stuart Murdoch of Belle And Sebastian. While there may not be an immediate crossover appeal, Blanket Music can write unpretentious little ditties with the best of them (the chorus of “Hips” especially may find itself embedded in your head for days).

For only 6 dollars, this EP is a nice way to pick up some excellent new music and hear some upcoming bands in the process. Basically, Hush Records has again gotten things correct on this new, 8-song disc with almost 30 minutes of music. It also serves the real purpose of an EP, which is get you excited for the full-length (or in this case, two different) release.
Rating: 7.25


Blanket Music / Noise for Pretend

Setting the stage for their forthcoming Hush releases, Noise for Pretend and Blanket Music team up for an eight-song EP, offering up four mouthwatering selections from each band.
The CD starts off with Noise for Pretend’s four songs. Martini-pop for the smooth, swanky cocktail lounge crowds, Noise for Pretend creates the atmospheric, low-key pop songs perfect for the guys and gals on the prowl.
Next up is Blanket Music’s four tracks, implementing everything AM Radio – pop, soul, R&B, and even some samba and swing for good measure. Cooking it all up in one big melting pop, they manage to lean towards the retro pop spectrum, but the other influences soak through on more than one occasion, making their four songs both flavorful and enjoyable.
Quite the collection, these eight songs have my mouth watering for the new full-lengths from both of these bands. I’ll give this a B. -AS

Nice ( Hush Records )
By: Alex Steininger
Jazzy, soft instrumentation with front man Crad Crouch’s timid, distant voice, Blanket delivers music that shares traits with pop-rock, emo, and jazz, but is neither any of those nor all of these. Rather, Blanket falls underneath the Hush umbrella (Hush being Crouch’s own label and studio), delivering singer-songwriter-esque songs with a flair.
Blanket, Crouch’s band, also implements elements of Brit-Pop. Nice is best described as a lounge-pop album, one you can sit and relax too, dance along with, or just play for entertainment. Rooted in 50’s, 60’s, and 90’s, this album is a good collection of pop if you like bands that revisit the old and attempt to make it new again. I’ll give this a B

Noise for Pretend / Blanket Music
Split CD EP
Hush Records Bossa nova-influenced pop
Frente, Francoise Hardy, Portishead, and 60’s bossa nova
Record labels can be such teases. First, they announce long-awaited new albums as much as nine months before their release, and then they dangle singles and rare tracks at you. Here, Hush Records is playing the tease with two bands that will be releasing full-length albums on the label in the next few months. And both bands are so very good that you’ll be desperately longing for a full-length album to satisfy your newfound cravings for luxurious pop music.

There’s some similarities here that make this a great split release even if it wasn’t a tease. Both bands are from Portland, Ore., and both play a jazzy style of bossa nova pop that’s part 60’s, part modern indie-rock. And the singer for Noise for Pretend adds her absolutely beautiful vocals to those of Hush frontman Chad Crouch on some of Blanket Music’s songs as well. It’s nice to keep it all in the family.

Noise for Pretend start with the bossa nova pop song “Pants with His Halfway Down” from their upcoming release. Lead by a very rich rhythm, all of the instrumentation pales behind lead singer Esperanza Spalding’s absolutely gorgeous vocals. Perfectly suited to this style of music, her voice makes me swoon, and this track is so lively yet sultry and slinky, with just a hint of lounge sensibilities, that it’s destined to be a classic. The rhythm on “Momagranite” sounds like it was recorded live, and it leads this more jazzy pop song even more. Spalding shows she can sing with the best of them, her voice not quite as sultry but more soulful. Spalding even scats a bit on “Money Penny,” a track that could be a Bond theme song as the title would imply. Her bass is the centerpiece of the instrumentation here, and her vocals at times remind me of those of Frente. More along with the first track, “Chalk Boy” brings back the bossa nova rhythms and sultry appeal the band started with, rounding out all four of their amazing songs.
Blanket Music, who I believe used to be just Blanket, kick things off with a radio edit of “Hips” from their upcoming album. Spalding’s vocals (or perhaps Corrina Repp, who is also listed as contributing backup vocals), singing the catchy “shut up and sway your hips,” may contribute the best line from a song that I’ve heard in a long time, and Crouch’s soft vocals during the verses merge effortlessly. Blanket Music add more electronic elements to the bossa nova style, with keyboards contributing bleeps and blips into the background behind quietly bouncy, danceable pop. A bit more laid back, “Bunny” is softer and pretty, and “Bicycle Theif” [sic] is more rhythm-focused and beat-heavy. Their closer, aptly titled “Song,” is a more playful pop song. Bouncy and light, with Crouch’s enigmatic vocals working nicely over the light guitar, this is a fun track.
Oh, such luscious music. Such absolutely sinful, fantastic pop music. Hush Records, always trying to be the enigma of the indie-pop world, has again turned out a brilliant release that eschews the modern aesthetics while embracing modern technology. If this is just a tease of even better things to come, Noise for Pretend and Blanket Music both have absolutely brilliant full-lengths in store.
– Jeff

Hush Records Blanket is the band project of Chad Crouch, president of Hush Records and something of a versatile artist in the Portland, Ore. area. Having only heard Crouch’s solo work before, it’s nice to hear his talents put to a band setting with the whole drums and bass thing and accompaniment from strings and accordions. It makes for some very fleshed out and full-sounding pop songs.
That’s not to say that Crouch’s solo work is any less good, but he sounds complete in this band setting. Just as in his solo work, however, the charm of the album is Crouch’s vocals. At times he sounds like a more accomplished Tim Kinsella and at others like Belle & Sebastian’s Stuart Murdoch. His vocals fit the style of music, which runs from light and jazzy to calm and folky to upbeat and bossa. On every song, however, the elements of sincerity and charm come through, making this a lovely and immensely rewarding album.

“Déjà vu” starts things off with a delightfully jazzy pop song that has some beautiful string segments. And here, Crouch’s voice is just slightly breaking and at his most endearing. “Kitten” takes on more of a moody and heavy folk feel, with an emphasis on Crouch’s acoustic guitar and accordion in the background. And like its name, “Bossa Rev” has more of a bossa nova style, bouncy and light, with Crouch’s vocals deep and perfectly fitting. The songs continue to change slightly between styles but never vary too far in tempo or mood, which keeps this album consistent. “Sao Paulo Graffiti,” for example, uses backing vocals more for melody and has a soft but very rich sound, and it picks up nicely with a more poppy beat. On “Like Someone in Love,” Crouch sounds more like Nick Drake, and the song takes something of a Drake-like folk feel. And “Cliché Lines” has much more of a Belle & Sebastian style of pop, sure to be a big hit with indie pop fans, even with the organ and Crouch’s Murdoch-like vocals. “Sexy Ways” has something of a 70’s rock feel to it, at least in the guitar, and something of a sexy, jazzy rhythm and flow. Crouch’s breaking voice adds a nice touch to the song, too. The closer, “Pretty/Important,” ends things on a very mellow and softly pretty note, with some lovely guitar and chiming organ in the background.

The music on Nice seems more influenced by early jazz and bossa nova style music than pop, but Crouch has pulled those influences into a more traditional pop structure and created some absolutely beautiful songs. Nothing here comes out too harsh or difficult, making it almost easy listening, but not in a muzak sort of way. It’s lovely stuff, light and jazzy and just poppy enough, all with some incredible vocals. Excellent album.
– Jeff


(Dante’s) This is a bit of a celebration for Blanket Music and Noise for Pretend, who recently released a split EP on Hush Records. The record showcases the best of Blanket Music’s merging of understated bossa nova and quirky pop, and against a backdrop of squiggly programming, Chad Crouch’s vocals have never sounded better. Of course, he is the only person in town who can pull off singing slightly off-key–instead of grating on your ears, it sounds as if he’s a little too laid-back to drag himself all the way up to the right notes, because it’s so nice down there on the beaches of Rio, and he’s still got a froofy drink to finish. Noise for Pretend is much more traditional with their sultry bossa nova, sprinkling hippy syncopation in the sweet rhythm of upright bass, guitar, and drums. Their tropical flavor is sealed by the gorgeous soprano of bassist Esperanza Spalding, whose talent betrays her youthful age (she was 16 last time we checked). You can also see Ms. Spalding in the amazing jazz-hiphop fusion band, Blak Scienz Tribe. JULIANNE SHEPHERD

(Lola’s Room) Every word sung by Chad Crouch, the vocalist and primary songwriter of Blanket Music, sounds like a swath of velvet unrolling out of his mouth. Sure, it’s all got to do with the leisurely timbre of his voice and the steamy atmosphere created by BM’s languid, quiet bossa nova tunes, but it’s just perfect behind their breezy pop take on Jobim rhythms. Their newest CD, Move (on Crouch’s own label, Hush), shows Blanket Music further refining the quiet sparks within their pretty songs by adding electronic programming, lovely back-up harmonies by Corrina Repp and Esperanza Spalding. (Not to mention a full-on slow jam/sweet-talking interlude!) For the chignoned ladies and debonair boys making the cha-cha hips when they walk. Also on the bill: the heavenly Decemberists, whose heart-melting new record shall debut soon, also on Hush. JULIANNE SHEPHERD:


This song Describes us… all of us… i’m scared.
Blanket Music Move
Shut up and sway your hips. He clings to his opinions as if they’re all he has. Although he doesn’t mean to condescend sometimes he just seams mean. He likes to point out flaws, to demonstrate his intellect. His knowledge of pop culture suffers from being so discriminating and she’s heard it before. (shut up and sway your hips) “What’s your point?” she asks. (shut up and sway your hips) i’d like to see you try that mister.(shut up and sway your hips) I’ts not too late to have some fun’ (shut up and sway your hips) we could loosen up. We could all loosen up a little. Opinions are overrated. It’s all been said ebfore anyway. A smart and decent guy with stifled creative energy. Articulate in his critique– he’s his own worst critic so sadly.
This is a great CD, I reccommend you link to this site and at least give it a look-see (download Hips… so sweet

Chad Crouch press