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Elf Power:: Back to the web (Album Review)

I’m sitting in my room at the Howard Johnson in Halifax, Nova Scotia. Half drunk, completely out of my mind on a rainbow of prescriptions, my eyes focus through the window, looking out on Chocolate Lake. In a few hours the sun will rise and I will be enjoying the Complimentary Deluxe Continental Breakfast: Cereal, juice, milk, doughnuts, bagels and other assorted random breakfast goodies. You all more than likely know the drill. I have spent most of the evening in the company of two female art students from the Nova Scotia College of Art and Design, drinking, discussing the sad state of Canadian baseball and partaking in what we in my imaginary world of amateur journalism call “Hand to Hand Combat.”

Management has been here 3 times to ask me to quiet down. I’m told if they have to come back to my room for a fourth time the police won’t be too far behind. Now this is where a reasonable man would throw caution to the wind. Pfft!!! Fat chance! Besides, I got work to do.

First, let me be honest, I was not very familiar with the work of Elf Power. I’ve seen the name thrown around in the blogosphere, heard a few songs, stuck my foot in to check the water so to speak. Hailing from Athens, Georgia and associated with the Elephant 6 Collective, which includes bands such as Olivia Tremor Control, Neutral Milk Hotel, Of Montreal and Apples In Stereo, I wasn’t exactly sure what was in store for me.

This record grabbed me right away. The opener, “Come Lie Down With Me (And Sing My Song)” is grainy, like an old silent film.I picture a sad group of musicians dressed in rags playing some forgotten mountain song. But before you really have time to soak it in, track two bursts forward with a pounding war cry of drums. I cringe saying this, but “An Old Familiar Scene” is Decemberistsesque. The Decemberists comparison isn’t a bad thing though. I like the Decemberists, and perhaps in my not knowing enough of this band’s history that could be seen as foolish. But, the difference being, in my opinion, is that Andrew Rieger’s singing is easier on my ears than Colin Meloy’s. In fact, I really like Andrew Rieger’s voice a lot. It’s warm and so full of emotion. You can hear that he is confident in his writing and singing

> From an email of information I received, courtesy of trusted
informer/enforcer mblind, Rieger is quoted as saying, “I was listening to a lot of middle eastern folk and gypsy music when I started writing these songs and I tried to emulate some of those sounds by combining 12 string acoustic guitar with violin and accordion. Our last album was more of a straight ahead rock record, so in reaction this one came out as more of a dark, orchestrated folk rock album.”

I can hear these influences in the music, especially on “Somewhere Down The River.” The first 32 seconds are some indecipherable chanting buried under a mix of middle eastern sounding horns and drums. Then the guitar jangles in and the spiral downward begins. In the middle of the song the organ joins and I recall the wild dancing girl/organ scene at the meat locker party from “Ed Wood” where Sarah Jessica Parker’s character leaves Johnny Depp afterwards. Now maybe I’m not remembering it exactly clearly, but damn it, that’s how I see it in my head. Anyways, moving on.

The musicians are amazing. I hear the violin, mandolin, accordion and acoustic guitars played with such beauty that it’s hard to believe that I’m not hearing this in an elevator in Heaven. The only song I didn’t find to fit the overall feel of this record was “All The World Is Waiting.” It’s a great song though, in a cast off 70’s Rolling Stones outtake kinda way. The album closes with “Back To The Web.” Which is the perfect ending for this record. “Come back to the web” calls Rieger. What exactly the web is, I’m not sure. It could be a metaphor for the band returning to it’s past, or maybe the second coming of that tangled web of lies we call human existance. Who knows? I sure don’t.
Only one man truly does, and he wants you to explore his world fully to try to find your own meaning. Most of the songs are in the same vein, mid-tempo and swirling with beautiful imagery drawn from Andrew Rieger’s words.
Another thing I enjoyed about this record was the length of the songs. They aren’t really that long, so I don’t lose interest easily. Most songs clock in about or under three and a half minutes, making this a relatively short record. Usually I might gripe about this, but this one didn’t bother me. I liked this record. I suggest you get this record if you don’t have it already. Also, if you’re unfamiliar with Elf power and their past work, check into that as well.

The Complimentary Deluxe Continental Breakfast has come and gone. Management has confiscated my boombox I bought so I could listen to this record because I brought it to their so-called community dining area. It was either that or this time they were calling the cops for real. Now I’m forced to listen to it through headphones on my laptop. Bastards. I hope they at least enjoy their newfound boombox and record for the time being, because when I wake up later today I will cause an international incident if I don’t get my stuff back. (Review by: Casey Schroeder)