Review – WOOF. (EP) by WOOF.

Impressive Debut by Impressive One Man Band

(Rating: 8/10)

Download from iTunes: Woof. – Woof


Album: WOOF. (EP)
Artist: WOOF. (@kelanroman)
Released: 10.02.15
Label: Tree Machine Records (@TreeMachineRecs)
If you like: Grandaddy, Of Montreal, Telekinesis!

WOOF. is the eponymous debut EP, released on 10th February by the Montclair, New Jersey natives through Tree Machine Records. For more about WOOF. see my previous blog post here.

I say ‘natives’ but WOOF. isn’t actually a band, rather it is the monicker of multi-instrumentalist indie ‘nerd’ Kelan Bonislawski who (according to ‘legend’):

“After years of obtaining and playing around on various instruments, Kelan realized he had enough instruments to cover the sound of a full band, only no bandmates. This forced him to record each part on his own from his makeshift living room studio. This developed into a collage of sounds, from Beck esq lo-fi funk, to early 00’s indie rock, occasionally losing itself in dense psychedelic space”.

When you listen to WOOF. you can’t help but be impressed by the artistry of this one man band in the way he crafts something that sounds like it has more than one creative input. It will be interesting to see how WOOF. recreates this on stage.

The EP starts with ‘My Device’, a song about reliance on technology, which isn’t surprising given the amount of gadgetry and technological wizardry that is crammed into these 9 songs.

“My whole life is in the cloud but I don’t know where it is”.

The song is vaguely reminiscent of Violent Femmes Blister in the sun but with synths and whilst Bonislawski claims “My device is my whole life” it is clear that music is actually his muse and this is someone who enjoys creating and experimenting. You get the sense that Bonislawski creates a lot of output and then looks for interesting patterns and connections between what probably seem to be very different elements.

The next track ‘Not to Offend’ contains the repetitive refrain of:

“Oh no, I won’t apologise”

I think this is acting as Bonislawski’s statement of intent right up front – challenging the listener to either leave or join the party. The smart ones will take the latter choice.

‘I Got Away’ is a more straightforward guitar driven indie-pop number to start with and then layers of electronica are slowly added whilst still maintaining the song’s integrity.

Actually, quite a lot of the craft on WOOF. is in taking disparate elements, rhythms, beats, sounds and vibes and mashing them together in a way that sounds uneven on first listen and even second listen. But on repeated listens, you can hear them coming together. It’s a bit like brush strokes on a painting when viewed up close. They don’t really look like anything but when you pull away a bit and look at how they interrelate you can then start to see what is being painted. WOOF. does that with sound to great effect.

‘Certainty’ has a nice guitar driven beat and interesting vocals which sound both out of and and in tune at the same time. ‘Cold Comfort’, ‘2AM’ and ‘Hear Me Breathing’ deliver more interesting soundscapes.

My favourite, ‘Gleamed’, starts like the most poppy of the songs on the EP but works up to a change about half way through the song when it moves gear and becomes almost a different song which is an electronica guitar battle with a hint of Yoshimi battling the pink robots. I love the second half of this song and the descending guitar/bass sound is really infectious alongside the bubbling synth parts.

The EP could have ended there for me but WOOF. has one more in the locker, a softer paced, chill down affair to close the EP. You can’t blame a guy for wanting to showcase his entire repertoire I suppose.

This is a really assured first outing for WOOF. and it is well worth the £4.99 purchase price as new layers are revealed upon repeated listens – Download from iTunes: Woof. – Woof

MG – 11.02.15

“What a Terrible World, What a Beautiful World” – The Decemberists (Album Review)

We know you threw your arms around us in the hopes we wouldn’t change but we had to change some.

Released: 20.01.15
My Train Tracks Rating: 9/10
It’s been almost 4 years to the day since The Decemberists‘ last outing with “The King is Dead” (2011). That album marked the point at which Colin Meloy‘s band set a new course away from the progressive indie folk stylings of their previous offerings towards a new land where rock and pop stylings and more obvious hooks and melodies and arrangements are painted throughout the band’s songs. That’s not to say, that this doesn’t sound like a Decemberists album because it does and long time fans will still hear and feel much to love. There is, however, a larger step towards the indie pop and rock territory on this than any previous Decemberists album. That’s not a bad thing and whilst “What a Terrible World, What a Beautiful World” may not have the same thematic consistency of albums like “The Hazards of Love” (2009) or “The Crane’s Wife” (2006) it is a fine album with some brilliant touches. The opening track “The Singer Addresses His Audience” welcomes the listener in “We know, we know we belong to ya” but goes on to apologise that “we know you built your lives around us. But we had to change some”. It’s
a nice opener as it feels like the band is talking directly to the listener which makes you prick up your ears and think, OK, go on then. “Cavalry Captain” is more like the old Decemberists although with a much smoother cafe latte production. “Philomela” is where the pop sensibility really kicks in. Sounding like it could have come out of Phil Spector’s studio, full of Wall of Sound girl group oo’s and ah’s, it works really well. As usual, Meloy’s writing is poetic and thoughtful. He fits a lot of narrative into so few words such as on “Lake Song” – “Down by the lake we were overturning pebbles and upending all the animals alight and I took a drag from your cigarette and pinched it ‘tween my finger and thumbs till it had died” – his words working with the music to create a vivid world. “The Wrong Year” sounds like it could have featured on an REM album, lovely jangly guitars from Chris Funk throughout, a bit Johnny Marr in parts. “Carolina Low” is just Meloy and a guitar (with some sweet background vocals) leaning towards Southern Soul and managing to create an epic sound. “Anti-Summersong” is tongue in cheek and includes some call and response parts which don’t quite fit with the song but it is still fun. “Mistral” is another standout track. Great tune, lovely melodies, nice choral background vocals and interesting instrumentation including a honky tonk piano with very few lyrics describing a holiday abroad and reflection on life – “Won’t the mistral blow it all away?”. The album ends ironically with “Beginning Song” is a call to action although it’s not entirely clear what action is being called for. Maybe Meloy is asking the listener to do something, anything, just get out of your seat and grab the world – “Document the world inside your skin, the tenor of your shins, the timbre of your limbs”. It’s a hopeful song and sounds the start a confident statement about the next phase of the Decemberists musical journey. “What a Terrible World, What a Beautiful World” is not a concept album but is an album packed full of great songs and tight lyrics and is my first contender for a year end ‘best of 2015 slot’. The band are touring the UK in February and March 2015 and are definitely ones to see.

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