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on March 10, 2004
A peculiar album. At times, it sounds like the greatest undiscovered art-rock band I've ever heard, while at other times it strikes me as boring film-noir mood music. The standout track is "Did You Wonder", which is one of those songs you flat-out can't get enough of. It sounds like a car crash between The Clash's "London Calling" and the "Sesame Street" theme, replete with a bridge so amazing it'll make you grab the person next to you and pogo. The opening one-two punch of "Tropics of Love" and "Broken World" is a real treat as well. And in a parallel universe, "Only One Way" could have been a Bob Marley outtake filtered through Stereolab's worldly sensibility and vintage organics. But such moments are hopelessly sandwiched between far less entertaining fluff, much of which almost makes an effort to displease. I simply cannot stomach a dissonant piano, languid beat (do the songs grow slower and slower as the album wears on, or is it me?) and breathy vocals in the context of a latin-influenced concept album. It sounds like a lounge-lizard version of Kid Creole and the Coconuts' "Fresh Fruit in Foreign Places" without the sweetly crooning female vocals and fun vibe. (Come to think of it, that album seems like a pretty solid blueprint for this one, concept and all.) The closing track, "The One Who Has Disappeared", narrowly misses designation as an alt-country track, which is a very bad thing. Overall, something I dig, but that I'm not going to whip out when I want to hear an outstanding piece of music.
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on February 20, 2003
The name says it all. The Black Heart Procession's music is about heartbreak and loss, and on their previous three albums most of the music has provided apt atmospherics for the depressing lyrics. But then there were always a few gems where they let loose and threw some rhythm and tempo into the mix. These were the songs that stood out and hinted at what these guys were capable of, and ultimately kept us listening. On their new album, Amore Del Tropico, the Black Heart Procession begins to deliver on the promise of their previous efforts.
After a very brief intro, the title track "Tropics of Love," kicks in, and it's immediately clear that the Black Heart Procession have expanded their horizons. Most of the painful dirge is gone; in its place are lush arrangements, complete with percussion that borders on Latin at times. The real linchpin of the Black Heart Procession is talented multi-instrumentalist (guitar, piano) Tobias Nathaniel. He's a breath of fresh air in an age when your average indie rocker spends more time getting his/her hair just right than learning to play his/her instrument. Nathaniel's talents provide the foundation for Amore, and his piano lines figure in more prominently than ever (as they should).
But the musical blossoming here goes even further. It's clear that a lot of thought went into this album. Beautiful string arrangements weave in and out of the mix, as do synthesizer and organ, surf guitar, whispers, female backing vocals and their trademark non-standard instruments, the saw. This is an ambitious project, made all the more astounding when you consider that Black Heart Procession recorded and produced it all themselves. Songs like "Invitation" and "Sympathy Crime" come close to Pink Floyd watermarks for a band with a sliver of Floyd's recording budget.
Sounds great, right? More rhythm, less depression, all pulled off with an expert eye towards the craft of making and recording music. This is all true, but the overall tone is still that of the Black Heart Procession. This is not party music. Even when the songs are more uptempo, the key is still minor, and the lyrics are still about heartbreak and loss. Well, supposedly, the lyrics here all tie together into some type of narrative, but the common thread isn't cohesive enough to follow. And Pall Jenkins' voice will always be an acquired taste, even though he's starting to find a better balance between his trademark nasally drone and his more mellow baritone vocals.
The Black Heart Procession is a truly original band, and Amore Del Tropico is a large stride forward for them, a reminder and a promise of their potential. And although they will not win over legions of zany fans and groupies anytime soon, they are still one of the most exciting prospects out there for people who like their music dark, moody and mysterious.
J. Halterlein
Junkmedia Review
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on January 1, 2003
From their impressions of a southwestern Afghan Whigs to their mimicry of Concrete Blonde and Beat Happening, The Black Heart Procession are making some of the best-and darkest background music around.
From the Hitchcock-ready piano driven slink of "The Invitation" to the ghostly howls heard on "Tropics of Love," BHP seemed poised to make the hippest horror movie soundtrack you've ever heard. Their lyrics are less poetic than simple narration of something wicked this way coming. Paulo Zappoli taunts the listener, "did you not see / wasn't it clear...the signs on the road...the writing on the wall," while percussionist Joe Plummer pounds away at what sounds like a broken snare drum stuck in a bathroom stall.
Zappoli and fellow multi-instrumentalist Tobias Nathaniel add layer after layer of chirping organs and pulsating synthesizers instead of going the usual verse-chorus-bridge highway. The end result is a sort of undead Yo La Tengo-if that makes any sense. Picture hoards of classic movie monsters laboriously jamming with Lou Reed and David Bowie in an abandoned amusement park just before Scooby and the Mystery Machine gang arrive.
Call it post-gothic or The Cure gone convincingly trip-hop. Whatever it is-it certainly isn't music to listen to in daylight. Rather, it's the perfect album for a newly opened opium den, or maybe the last song in a Roman Polanski or Darren Aronofsky film. It's good stuff-but it's not for the faint of heart.
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on October 9, 2002
Amore del Tropico: a more upbeat, catchy and - yes, and even poppy at times - album from Black Heart Procession. Even though the album is centered around a murder mystery, you should still expect a little more pop and a little less dirge from BHP, the fourth time around. They abandoned their numerical album titles and went crazy, with strings, synthesizers, bells, layered voices and lots of piano. Crazy!
Even so, Amore del Tropico is still a perfect October 8th release, just in time for Halloween's mysterious, ghoulish and morbid themes. Black Heart Procession has somehow managed to infuse their dark flavor with catchy melodies and the result is a stunningly beautiful, insanely addicting and strangely sexy album.
The best parts about this album are the piano and the synthesizer; together they make one's listen a truly amazing experience. I may be biased, because they happen to be my two favorite instruments, but regardless, I think everyone will agree that they add the finishing touch.
Each song follows a reporter on a murder case, but the first track isn't really a song as much as it is a dramatic and cinematic 12-second perfect murder mystery intro. The second track sets the tone of the entire album, repetitive lyrics and all: "comfort is why we lost our hearts - was it here where we left our hearts - in the tropics of love..." Layered voices set against a 70's psychedelic theme are rather Pink Floyd-esque in "Broken World."
Track four, "Why I Stay," departs from the flavor of the album as a whole, adding a country flare; Paul Zappoli lowers his voice nearly an octave and sounds almost like Simon Joyner.
Following the slow and simple country tune, "The Invitation," switches things up again and starts out with a creepy piano melody coupled with wacky synthesizer sounds - very dark, and very captivating. This song might top my list of Amore del Tropico favorites. Soon the choir voices come in, unanimously singing, "you'll find them in the shadows - you'll find us in the shadows - we hide." At this point, the red and black creepy sketched cartoon cover art is starting to make sense - and you never realized Goth could sound so good.
A song that's so catchy it deserves its own paragraph is "Fingerprints" - besides, the crime is being uncovered as he speaks! Against a Latin salsa-ish rhythm created using only strings, bass and maracas, the monotone Cake-like (the artist, not the dessert) voices repeat, "they found fingerprints - fingerprints they found fingerprints."
Amore del Tropico ends nicely - if not a little strangely - with "The One Who Has Disappeared," returning to the slow country tune. The melody is so oddly comforting, you could practically fall asleep to it.
To concisely sum Amore del Tropico up would be as difficult as finding the murderer. Besides, I'm not sure that's how the story (or movie?) is supposed to end. After all, it's a mystery. For now, just know that you won't be disappointed - or bored - with Black Heart Procession's creepy Halloween album.
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on October 15, 2002
This album is excellent. While the last few albums were atmosphere heavy, "Amore.." is much more structured. Don't worry--the atmosphere is still there but now it's groovy. The songs on this album are a little more rock-esque, which in my opinion is quite cool. And again they've managed to throw in some of their unique ingredients such as but not limited to cello and violin action. There are even a few songs that might be considered --gasp!-- hip and urban sounding. Like you might hear them with some rap lyrics on top.
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on October 20, 2003
Pall Jenkin's is a genius! I have loved Black Heart Procession since their birth, and their latest album Amore Del Tropico is another brillant step into the macabre, and chilling world that they have created. The best thing about BHP is that they write albums, not just songs like most bands do these days. Think of Pink Floyd's Dark Side of the Moon, or The Wall when listening to this band. They take you far into the reaches of the mind, and unearth damaged emotions and breath-taking fears. Amore Del Tropico is the best album i've heard in the last 10 years!
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on November 4, 2002
three was a clone of 2. clone to a beautiful lady.
this is a creation of a new concept of beauty.
what pink floyd has done before 30 years, is embodied in this album.
this album unleashes something like it has been long held.
i couldn't imagine what it would be like if black heart played its music with such different rithms and with strings.
selecting some songs for downloaders is a nice way of introducing albums, but for this album it would be an unrespectfullness on the behalf of me and you.
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on March 27, 2004
My favorite music is stuff that sounds like it came off a soundtrack, but really didn't. That's why I love Friends of Dean Martinez, and now I'm glad to have found the Black Heart Procession. Although they have different styles, one thing the two bands have in common is their ability to create stories using music. Their music is very evocative, creating movies in the mind's eye.
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on April 9, 2003
David Lynch in the tropics on a sticky summer night just after a downpour. A beautifully dark story of murder.
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on October 19, 2002
a beautiful change-up pulled off perfectly. do grace your ears with these melodies.
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