Reviews

Euphemystic

Author: Lindsey Kaylor
10/01/2001 | Junkmedia.org | www.junkmedia.org | Album Review
They've already been dubbed the "new darlings of indie rock" on the virtue of a split CD, Oh Holy Fools, they shared with Bright Eyes. Now, Son, Ambulance have emerged onto the scene in their own right with their new full-length Euphemystic; and this Omaha-based group will probably now share in the rotating spotlight that shines down on the talent of their label, Saddle Creek.
The leader of the band, Joe Knapp, has an undeniable songwriting talent that is clear throughout the 70s-like, singer/songwriter piano and acoustic guitar-driven tracks of Euphemystic. He makes no secret of the influence that acts such as Jackson Browne and Simon & Garfunkel have had on him. His angelic howling voice is even comparable to that of folk legend Tim Buckley's. Knapp's stripped-down, honest lyrics carry the songs in a direction that is also reminiscent of a somber Ben Folds.
The first song "An Instant Death" sets a wistfully melodramatic mood. Then "An Instant Birth" comes in with a playful energy. The song ends with a nice vocal harmony over a single distorted note that becomes a 25-second segue into the next song, which starts off with some electronics that may get your head nodding before it switches to a beautiful piano solo while Knapp sings, "If you can learn to love me again our love can heal and live forever."
Then comes "A Book Laid On Its Binding," which is an especially good song, with guitars, piano and vocals swirling together to create a colorful, melodic blend. It's simple and beautiful. The next track is an acoustic boss nova style love song that comes unexpectedly. Knapp strums aggressively at his guitar and barks a Jarvis Cocker-like "yeah-yeah-yeah-yeah-yeah." It is a different mood and style than the rest of the record; which can be good or bad depending on whether you like the track.
Although the songs of Euphemystic are all similar, each has its distinct characteristics that set it apart from the next. Knapp's lyrics of irony, ideas of love and life in general are revealing and at times leave the listener uncomfortable (like you accidentally walked in on him in the john). But this isn't a record you have to leave a box of tissues next to, because it is full of positive reinforcement, kind of reminding you that life isn't so bad.
They even manage to incorporate bits of the Sesame Street theme, and you might even find yourself singing along with the boys. These silly bits can be a relief for those of you taking life, and good pop songs, too seriously.
The highlight of the album comes with "Violet," which features Bright Eyes' Conor Oberst. Knapp's emotions flow out in this song. You can feel the tense, though not at all forced, lament when he sings, "I'm not scared," in wavering falsetto. Then cue Oberst, who comes in subtly and takes us to a minimal crescendo (rare for him), when the two begin singing together, "I've been storing up these words to pour like rain, like peace upon your perfect head."
Although Joe Knapp is the driving force behind the band, all members and contributors deserve credit for providing components that give the record solidarity. In its entirety, Euphemystic is a wonderful record and definitely comes recommended.


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