Wednesday, February 07, 2007

Everett True Weighs In On The Finches

Big man, tastemaker, reviled and revered music critic, ahead of the curve rocker, published author, editor-in-cheif, Everett True writes a glowing Finches review in the new issue of Plan B Magazine.

Words: Everett True
The Finches
Human Like A House (Dulc-i-Tone)

I was drawn to the cover, the insert, at first.
Chipboard and paper, of course - inside, a series of woodcut drawings depicting a windswept girl, a deserted makeshift playground and black geese, it reminded me of the work of French-Canadian chanteuse WOELV and Olympian human archivist Nikki McClure and her gentle, evocative nature calendars. There's a barely readable transfer stuck across album front, drawing parallels with Vashti Bunyan, The Marine Girls and US performance artist Mirah. Sure, the second name has been overused in recent years (doubtless because of the tenuous Nirvana connection), but it still draws me in, makes me listen to a few notes if only to curse roundly at the mendacity and/or cloth ears of PRs because…well, you know. The Marine Girls recorded songs about rock pools in a shed. Plus, it's a better name to drop to indicate awareness of silence, independence and melody than, say, Young Marble Giants - who no one ever gets. The other two names clearly are there to signify folksiness and a vague zeitgeist, but that's OK. The more I hear field recordings from past decades, the more I eschew the violence and clamour of indie-boy guitar pop.
So I place the album in my CD-player and I'm hypnotised. The woodcuts are the work of singer Carolyn Pennypacker Riggs - a graceful talent, for sure. Her rich, pastoral voice lilts and caresses over 12 slow-burning, resonant melodies - sometimes Sixties (The Mama And Papas) pop, sometimes Seventies folk, sometimes even recalling the spooked military rhythms of former Careless Talk cover stars Young People ('The House Under The Hill', where Carolyn's mother sings back-up). Guitars chime and burr in circular motion. Lyrics sing of mix tapes ('June Carter Cash'), atmospheric disturbance ('Two Ghosts') and distant hometowns ('Goettingen, Du'). Ennui deliciously saturates every groove.
Carolyn has a way of singing a little too closely to the microphone, her carefully enunciated words distorting slightly - as on the sweet farewell song 'Last Favor' - but this only serves to increase a feeling of intimacy. Often, it feels like the San Francisco duo have set up camp in your living room, so crystal-bright is the sound. It probably helps that Carolyn's songs are so stately, considered, stripped bare of all but the necessary - her guitar, the guitar and bass of fellow Finch Aaron Morgan, maybe the odd pedal steel or recorder or cello. I'm reminded of Phil Elverum's analogue recordings in Mt Eerie - the same sense of wonderment, the same joy in nature - but The Finches' sound is more rounded off (courtesy of Aaron's dad, producer David Morgan), conventionally 'finished'.
Sometimes appearances and hastily thrown-off words don't deceive. This is an enchanting, rewarding and uplifting album.

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