The Broken String
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As Brooklyn indie-rock acts go, Bishop Allen's core members-Justin Rice and Christian Rudder-offer little bombast and less pretension. After their well-received debut, 2003's Charm School, the pair embarked on a year-long "EP project," self-releasing a four-song disc for each month of 2006. As a follow-up, The Broken String proves that the prolific project yielded nothing if not a masterful honing of the band's already established elements: plaintive vocals, tastefully spare arrangements, and an unerring knack for employing the right guest musician at the right time, including horns, strings, a Hammond organ, and lovely backing vocals by Darbie Nowatka (who also sings lead on "Butterfly Nets" and designed the beautiful CD package). Most importantly, Rudder and Rice spin daringly capricious yarns. Suckers for a good pedestrian detail, these songs dabble in maritime history ("The Monitor"), Chilean Catholicism ("Like Castanets"), and the grind of office life ("Middle Management") with facile familiarity and unassuming humor. For fans on the hunt for a less lovelorn Magnetic Fields, or a calmer, gentler version of the Decemberists (sans the grating whine and the pocket thesaurus), Bishop Allen just might be the answer. Either way, The Broken String sounds timeless. --Jason Kirk
Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
The album on a whole is excellent; full of catchy melodies and charming songwriting. The music is more minor-key than their debut, Charm School, but it's still recognizably Bishop Allen. Fans of fun indie pop will enjoy this collection of songs.
"The Monitor" requires singing along throughout. The drums draw you in, and the pianos keep you there. Find yourself singing "carried on, carried on, carried on/singing la-da-da-da-la-de-da" over and over. Perfectly blending into track 2, "Rain" is one of the best on the album. Full of promise and inspiring lyrics. Great little bit of guitar work, matching the non-stop vocals in the verses. Listen repeatedly. This also blends right into "Click, Click, Click, Click", a smoothed out/ crooned out track. Nice and memorable and cheery, ala happy Wilco, any Rogue Wave, among others. This song holds it own among anything I've heard this year. Perfectly produced. Actually, this album needs no volume adjustments, just sit back and enjoy the mastered equalization. "The Chinatown Bus" employs a drum track that carries this beautiful song along, like a non-annoying "Hey There Delilah". Love the horns that come in after the bridge and the flute at the end. "Flight 180" is totally sedated at first, but penetrates thru regardless, due to the true passion and pain that radiate from the singer.
"Like Castanets" should be viewed as the start to Part 2. A little bit of a country element, and a smoothness that is unmatched. Great percussion and controlled melody. Nothing here grates... the song soothes, even when the mexican-sounding horn section takes over. One of the best on the album. "Buttefly Nets" features a guest female vocal and a nice sax section, and does not sound out of place. It adds to the notion that this album is its own atmosphere, not focusing on any one member or identity. The song reminds me of Architecture in Helsinki's first 2 albums. "Shrinking Violet" is a short/soft/sweet song, accomplishing much in less than 2 minutes. "Corazon" starts with haunting vocals and percussion, then cues even more haunting chords, before bringing in the drums and instantly becoming a classic. The bassline sounds like "I Turn My Camera On" by Spoon. Wow, this one gets better each second that goes by. "Middle Management" picks up the pace and starts with a shouting "Alright!", and worked well in concert, but only --alright-- here. "Choose Again" returns Bishop Allen to form with some touching lyrics, "If at first you don't choose right, choose again/Oh my son you're a sorry sight, choose again". Great piano work after the second chorus. Verse 3 starts passionately, with the line "Heaven ain't got no place for me, but there's plenty of beds in hell". "The News from Your Bed" is the conclusion, and is a fun piece of music/piano. Great way to end a distinctive album.
Bishop Allen and The Broken String is a piece of music to be experienced thru and thru over and over again. Amazing that the songs all fit together, since they were all pulled from prior EP's. Can't wait to see what they do with their next album.
One of the amazing things of this album is how it was recorded. Since they only had two guys, they recorded the instruments seperately and spliced the sound together.
Overall, a great bye. I would reccomend it to anyone.
I had a "vinyl flat" that was capable of subduing the record warp a minor degree, though edge warps are very difficult to fix and the first track is still a loss. In retrospect, I should have sent it right back upon seeing the sleeve warp.
I know that I'll get hammered by the review police, for my decision to deduct stars from the product. However, seeing that it will have little-to-no affect on the album's overall group rating and there's no way to publicly rate Amazon's and other sellers' shipping policy, I think it's a fair compromise and will hopefully prevent others from making the same mistake I did.