Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Freelance Whales, Pigeon Holes, and a Wooden Bowl of Apples

What could be more footloose than a Freelance Whale?

These Freelance Whales, they're unpigeon-hole-able. The New York quintet call themselves and have been called: 'Indie' 'Rock' 'TechPop,' and, dismissively, 'fuzzed-out synths with raw Americana,' but together, what they are is an exuberant tumble of glockenspiels and banjos, harmoniums, cellos, and something called a waterphone that I had to look up* all plinking innocence, green-as-young-wine in a children-in-sun-and-grass home movie flicker. But, it's the bones, the infrastructure, holding it all up - the girders and cable of microKorg layers, MOOG lilt, and piles and piles of drums that saves these whales.

To me these two songs, Generator First Floor and Generator Second Floor, help conjure a whole Green and Pleasant place full of on-the-loose childhood with not a guardian in sight, just long days playing dress-up in uninhabited manses, parading over meadows, roaming overgrown gardens, with all the dark possibilities of lace curtains in sunny nurseries blowing from windows carelessly left open far above the gravel drive.

This is, of course, is a neighborhood peopled with playmates like Cymbals Eat Guitars (who probably live in the woods), pianist and erstwhile computer engineer Vienna Teng, The Fruit Bats, even The Weepies, who, like countrified cousins, would have come for a visit worrying they don't have the right high-top Converses, or enough JP-8000s, but they connect with the city kids through the candid vigor of musicality that they all have.

And it's against modest poets like the Weepies, though, that the Whales sink. Weepies' lyric beauty, while more rough-hewn, honest as the notebook paper it's written on, with the frankness of a wooden bowl of apples.

*A waterphone has its own colorful history involving B. Franklin and Tibet. It is related to the nail violin, says its Wiki.

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