Reviews

Euphemystic

Author: Alex Naidus
9/10/2001 | CMJ Monthly | Album Review
File under: cheery minimalist indie rock
R.I.Y.L.: Bright Eyes, Pedro the Lion, Ben Folds
Joe Knapp is best known for his work with indie-rock darlings Bright Eyes, his soothing vocals offsetting BE frontman Conor Oberst's insistent wailing and his taut drumming setting a backbone behind Oberst's franatic guitars. Under the guise of Son, Ambulance, Knapp emerges from Oberst's shadow, showing off his own considerable songwriting chops. On Euphemystic, Knapp's full-length debut under that moniker, his stylistic connection to Bright Eyes is overt, relying heavily on minimalist instrumentation (brushed drums, soft pianos and delicately strummed acoustic guitars) and charmingly hushed vocals to set a pastoral scene. But the tone of Knapp's songwriting is the emotional polar opposite of Oberst's suicide-inducing tales of self-deprecation. Whether Knapp is quietly pleading as piano and drums built to a crescendo ("Violet"), crooning and yapping in Spanish over flamenco-ish guitars ("Maria in Motion") or fashioning a Randy Newman-esque music-hall ballad ("A New Dress For Maybell"), he keeps an absurdly cheery demeanor, celebrating life rather than hiding from it. His optimism even borders on being too flagrant, as when he leads a chorus of voices through the Sesame Street theme ("I'll promise you will never grow old"). Such unabashed cheer would generally make little sense in a bedroom-built, brooding indie context, but Euphemystic radiates enough sunlight to sweep the clouds from above even the gloomiest punk rocker.
Euphemystic

Euphemystic

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