Reviews

Key

Author: Josh Bledsoe
11/30/2004 | 30music.com | www.30music.com | Album Review
It's hard to ignore an album released by Omaha, Nebraska's Saddle Creek, one of the strongest indie labels there is. It is the baby of Bright Eyes' Conor Oberst, who collaborated with Son, Ambulance in 2001 for Oh, Holy Fools. Son, Ambulance was just Joe Knapp at the time, and he received largely unfavorable reviews for the songs he contributed. Later that same year, he released his debut album, Euphemystic, which allowed his songs to shine on their own.

That brings us to the release of their newest album, Key. Son, Ambulance is now officially a band. The four new members bring several instruments to the package, including piano, guitar, bass guitar, drums, and even some backing vocals. Guest musicians add accordion and violin on a couple tracks. The result is a more fully realized, vividly rich sound. From the gently simple piano-violin mix of "If I Should Fall Asleep" to the epic majesty of "Case of You/Wrinkle, Wrinkle," this album has all the emotional bases covered.

You can tell it's going to be a serious disc when it starts off with what seems to be a real phone message from Knapp's son. It's Father's Day and the kid wants to know when his dad is going to visit. As the message is played, the sound of an approaching airplane gets louder and louder, finally going right into the first proper track, the wonderful "Paper Snowflakes." The lyrics are some of the strongest on the album, including the lines: "Paper snowflakes don't melt in the sunshine / and glass tears don't dry."

It's easy to see similarities between Oberst and Knapp, who were once roommates. They both have very emotional, poetic lyrics, and are never afraid to stretch their singing voices to the limit. "Chlorophyll" is the most like a Bright Eyes song, and shines beautifully. "Taxi Cab Driver" finds the band having the most fun. It charges ahead joyfully in the chorus and features several tempo changes.

Son, Ambulance has come a long way since being out-shined on their split release with Bright Eyes. They have a sound all their own, which fits well in the strong lineup of bands on the Saddle Creek label.

Key

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