Monday, March 06, 2006
My Top 20 of 2005, #1: Derby-This Is The New You
Well, 20 days later, here it is: #1. My top spot for 2005 goes to Derby, a band out of Portland, Oregon who put out a stunningly accomplished debut last February to great acclaim. However, most of that acclaim came around the time the album came out. While I heard and read several saying at the time that the album was "best-of-year" and "top 10" material, it pretty much got the shaft on the Audities year-end poll despite my #1 vote. The only other place I saw it was on David Bash's list at around #27, and by the time I saw it there, I was grateful to see it at all. I know Craig Leve of Snap Crackle Pop touted them, but I never did see his best-of list, so perhaps I wasn't alone, but still a distinct minority.
OK, enough complaining about how this album didn't get the props it deserved, and time to explain why it did deserve them. Simply put, it's an album that pays homage to the greats without slavishly imitating them, and by the time you've finished listening to it, you realize they have their own distinct sound. Who are the influences? Well, you can start in their backyard with fellow Portlander Elliott Smith, and for contemporaries you can also include The Shins and The Pernice Brothers (circa The World Won't End), and for the classics, The Beatles and The Kinks. But they've managed to assimilate all of these influences into something of their own.
The album starts off with the acoustic "Jet Set", which is where the Smith/Shins influence can be heard. Frontman Nat Johnson, who has a voice that reminds me of a less histrionic Ed Roland, sings "maybe it's all right to turn you on/turn you on to something new", which could serve as the mission statement for this blog. This beautiful yet short number is suddenly overtaken by the crashing chords of "Qualities", where the brilliance continues. While at first sounding like Bends-era Radiohead or even good Coldplay, the song then turns to a late Beatles sound in the "stereo afterglow" of the bridge, and then it all comes around again.
And another winner immediately follows with the shuffling "Sunk a Few", complete with handclaps and Revolver-ish backwards-sounding guitars. After that comes "One Reason", which sounds like a great lost Alan Parsons Project track (Johnson does have a bit of Eric Woolfson in his voice as well); "Parade", which features Johnson's best vocal performance of the album; the uptempo "Get to the Feeling" which summons Sloan and borrows their use of fake crowd noise to nice effect; and the rocking "This Conversation", whose cool-sounding keyboard intro has found a place as the bumper music for the Not Lame Podcast. Finally, Derby close with "Pay No Mind", a driving track that's equal parts ELO's "Mr. Blue Sky" and the Beatles' "Getting Better". And when Johnson sings "a photograph is all I have/a photograph is all I have of you" in the fadeout, you're almost sad the album is over. This release also reminds me quite a bit of my current year's #1 to date, Supraluxe (or perhaps the other way around, since Derby came first). If you like that one, you'll like this one as well.
Where to listen? Start with some mp3s here (they're playing SXSW, which is where the first one is from):
Sunk a Few
You can stream "Parade" and "Pay No Mind" here. Then hop on over to their myspace page, where you can stream live versions of "Get to the Feeling" and "This Conversation". Finally, you can sample the rest at their cd baby page. You can get it there, or at Not Lame, or a used copy in the Amazon marketplace. I won't care where you buy it, just as long as you do. And Audities, I demand a recount.
UPDATE: Also available via eMusic.