(For the next ten days, I’ll be counting down the list of my 20 favorite albums of 2008. Obviously I didn’t hear every album that came out–although I did hear quite a lot of them–and obviously personal taste factors into this quite a bit, so I can tell you now that if you’re looking for gospel or metal recommendations this isn’t the list for you. But let’s not squabble, let’s just appreciate all the nice music that folks are making. I’ll be posting about two albums a day, one in the morning and one in the afternoon, from now until next Friday. Although yes, now I’m a day behind. Damn it anyway.)
Nothing Is Precious Enough For Us
The voice of ex-Providence resident Joel Thibodeau is hard to mistake; it’s high. Really, really high. And thin. Really, really thin. Pre-pubescent, even.
This could be annoying. If listening to Radiohead makes you want to kick Thom Yorke in the shins because he sounds like he’d be too wimpy to fight back, then I would avoid this record. However, if you can ignore the initial shock of Thibodeau’s voice, then I highly recommend this, because it’s a really lovely folk record.
Thankfully, it avoids overproduction; the music builds itself up naturally, so that you hear the words without being distracted too much by the voice that’s singing them. Exploded View buzzes along with subtle harmonicas and a guitar bit in the middle that you could easily dance to. The Widening has a honky-tonk piano, and Belt of Foam has oddly stirring bells and sad-sounding horns, all used to great effect.
“I’m drifting and stupefied,” Thibodeau says in The Widening. With almost every note on the album sounding really strained, lines like that make you wonder whether he’s drifting through life or drifting downriver. You can tap your feet along to Obadiah In Oblivion, and you might find yourself wondering about the safety of Thibodeau’s voice; but you might grow to like that, too.
There’s a nice pop sensibility to the records; most songs are in the three-minute range and choruses are memorable enough to sing along with by the third listen. I’ve been totally bored by Sub Pop’s other folky offerings (like Fleet Foxes and Iron and Wine), but this record totally outshines both of them.
Listen! Death Vessel, The Widening