Songs for Stem Cells (07.09, Self-Released/Hot Congress)
Byline: One giant leap
For: Besnard Lakes, Sonic Youth, A less boring Blonde Redhead
A quality that American culture severely lacks is a fearless embrace of the rewind/record button on the VCR. Sure, Wes Craven's movies were scary when you were 10 but do "Nightmare on Elm Street" and "People Under the Stairs" really warrant a "re-imagining"? Crosby-Stills-Nash and Young were cool in the seventies but do Fleet Foxes really deserve best album of the year by Pitchfork? I can't tell if this re-packaging of old ideas is a sign of a pre-apocolyptic scarcity of resources or a post-modern act of nostalgia, a.k.a L-A-Z-Y. In a society obsessed with it's shared history and content with producing anything if it works, it takes a lot of courage to rip it up and start again. Songs for Stem Cells is a fitting title for an album that wipes the slate clean of all previous musical attempts. SFASC is a tabula rosa, an unformed mass of cells quivering with a sense of potential, a blank slate of devoid of expectation or previous life. This is certainly how I felt when I listened to this album, I viewed it as a completely new organism. Although blogging compresses time to a fraction, see 2 posts below, Vitamins are light years beyond what they thought they could be. I had no idea listening to the happy-go-lucky, a little goofy, somewhat disperate 2008 Calliope that the same Vitamins that produced that could turn into such blistering, shimmering, mass of energy in 2009. The slate is clean. The guitars are murkier, heavier, much more distorted, with riffs that feel like someone is standing on your chest thanks to new addition of guitarist Matt Daniels. There is a bass line in "Sequined Dress" that is about as heavy and, I almost shudder to say it, as funky as I have heard in a while. What is even more exciting is the wad of unrestrained distortion bubbling way beneath the surface. SFaSC is a truly cohesive effort with each member giving equal amounts of input, not one song steps out of the new aesthetic or strays back into familiar territory. Something wonderful happens when an adjective is begging to be used, not because of its crucial referentiality but because of its obvious transparency. Lizzy Allan's voice is epherial, floating in and out of each coda with same delicacy as Elizabeth Fraser. In a culture bent on referentiality it takes a band with a lot of ambition to forget their past and move unfettered into brand new territory. Vitamins will be coming back into SLC on the 17th, let's find a venue for them!