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Forgot one


White Magic, Dat Rosa Mel Apibus (Drag City)

That was a serious oversight, because this one has become an absolute afternoon-walk staple, and also the record that was playing when I last touched down in Portland, which felt somehow appropriate—getting in touch with my granola roots, innit. I don't know if this is what was called "freak folk" way back in ye olde 2005 or not, and frankly I don't care; it's too good, too true to its own weird program to be reduced to a genre caricature. I was reminded what I hate about music writing—mine included—when I ran across a recent review of this that highlighted the instrumentation and external stylistics (warbly vox, lotsa piano, ok ok) and whatever the New York scene backstory is, already forgotten by me, but totally neglected to talk about the way the record works: how singers and players dig into the material, into you, how totally meaty the record is, like a beefcake tomato. For all its foregrounding of affect, this record is secretly all about structure, which somehow makes it far more subversive than merely its outward unkemptness could convey. I'd never have expected such a bizarre wash of references to come at me: in opener "The Light" I hear Hugo Largo and, in the vocals, Yes, for starters. With the piano's predominant role in the rhythm section, the bluesy guitars, it's impossible to ignore the, howdyacallit, down-home quality of the music, the porch-thumping and whatnot, which I suppose begs the f---k f--k tag. But it'd be a shame to hear only that and miss the powerful harmonics of a song like "Childhood Song," that swell and shake like an eyeball under its flesh curtain precisely at the moment of sleep, notes flashing out like dreamcarpets for flying on. The album sags a little in the middle, maybe, but who cares: with "Katie Cruel," a bracing acoustic lament, it picks back up for a magnificent four-song close that's repetitive as reaching for the whiskey bottle. And after so much earnest earth, wrapping up with a song that might be a Siouxsie outtake is pure genius. Someone get these guys in the studio with Ekkehard Ehlers already.


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