Tuesday, 17 January 2012

Pale Young Gentlemen - Black Forest (Tra La La)


I have a soft spot for baroque pop and just about any band that incorporates harpsichord, cello, harp, and other beautiful strings in a tasteful manner. Pale Young Gentlemen fits these criteria. I found this great little group because they are on the label Science of Sound, as are one of my favorites: Sleeping in the Aviary.

The initial track “Coal/Ivory” is not the most exciting song on the album but it is nice to listen to. It starts off with a hurried acoustic guitar melody that is common throughout the song. The orchestral strings soon follow. The strings add a great depth and drama to the song, especially where he says, “Sometimes I forget”, where the strings resolve the initial tension that the guitar melody creates.

“The Crook of My Good Arm” is a really exciting song. The sinister sounding dissonant strings add intensity and drama that make the song sound like an attempt at escaping peril. “Run run for the puzzle of it all, for the child in your heart that is taking all the blame, run” are really nice lyrics. This band tells of stories and situations with their lyrics and are not particularly concerned with having overly relatable or catchy lyrics like other bands are.

“Kettle Drum (I Left a Note)” is easily my favorite song on the album. I really like the tympanic drum sounds after each verse is really charming. Christmas sleigh bells can be heard after the first chorus, and from a far off place you can hear the singing “I’ve been wandering”. This is a really atmospheric song that would fit well as the soundtrack to a movie. After the halfway mark, the drums pick up and gorgeous female vocals are added, singing “We can talk for hours or even not at all”. The sleighbells are reintroduced with woodwinds. This song is super charming and fun. I love this classic sound!

The song “Wedding Guest” stands out to me as well. The vocals are very centered with picky strings at each side. I love the texture the picking gives to the song. This song has a thinner and more minimalistic sound with bells, horns and light strings but still maintains the dramatic sound that the rest of the album has.

“We Will Meet” is the most beautiful song on the album. There is glorious harp and vocal. This sound is more minimal as well but the simplicity makes this song intimate and lovely.

Other than the songs mentioned previously, I find that a lot of the songs just kind of slip into the next and lack their own identity. The album sounds nice collectively and plays through well, but only a few of the songs are particularly memorable.

Unfortunately, the band has announced they are on an indefinite hiatus, so I guess we won’t be hearing any new stuff anytime soon. That makes me sad because I want more from them! I really liked this album. If you liked this album, I suggest that you check out “Entanglements” by Parenthetical Girls, “The Game of Monogamy” by Tim Kasher, or “Gulag Orkestar” by Beirut.
~Mary

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