On numerous occasions I have been accused of being ‘too indie’ by my fellow peers and ‘colleagues’ and while I initially shrug it off I get to wondering if there really is such a phenomena. Am I wasting my time by searching below the critically-accepted indie Mendoza line? Should I listen to the latest Antony & The Johnsons album for the third time in hopes of ‘getting it’…or should I pass and let Portland’s Point Juncture, WA step up to the plate to pinch hit? To me, both artists, though sounding nothing alike, are equal in status in spring training. I chose the latter and I am happy to report, with no reservations, that Point Juncture, WA came through with a base knock when I had perhaps started to doubt myself.
Let’s forget the visually pleasant stenciled/sprayed artwork for a moment and cut right to the music. Some artists invest a whole lot of effort and energy into the opening track, opting for the ‘bang’ first. This may elicit temporary euphoria but more times than not the surge fizzles and you’re left with a post-coital letdown. On Juxtapony the band exercises the opposite approach. ‘Western Flyer’ provides sufficient foreplay for what is to come on the album, a short jazzy prelude with twinkling vibraphone and sleepy trumpet.
Yeah, the intro may sound like an orchestra warming up, fine-tuning their instruments for their upcoming performance but it segues nicely into the slow-sizzling ‘Siesta Movement’. Amanda S.’s vocals should immediately recall Caithlin De Marrais (Rainer Maria) or Jenny from Rilo Kiley, affecting enough to wow but with just enough bent edges to transcend ‘pretty’. Meanwhile the bass thumps and stringy guitar slithers along. And, woo, there’s more of that wistful vibraphone as well. The band also display a knack for harmonizing near the end of the song. Well-rounded and very nice.
The best track on the album, ‘Transient Attack’, follows and I’m not kidding when I say this is easily one of the best individual songs I have heard this year. Dirgey organ and vibraphone peek out from behind the stutter-stop drumbeat. One of the male vocalists in the band, Victor Paul Nash, takes the helm here but Amanda, who’s also responsible for the above percussion, chimes in throughout. The song climaxes halfway through, with dreamy harmonized vocals and sorrowful guitar inducing goose-bumps and chills. This variety of ethereal dreampop brings personal favorites, Aarktica, to mind as well as the terribly underappreciated Broken Social Scene offshoot, Raising The Fawn. It also appears the band has a subtle sense of humor, quietly utilizing a Chuck Norris quote (‘the best defense is not to offend’) amidst a tale of an uneasy friendship. I’m glad I’m not the only one who remembers that commercial. Excellent!
While nothing else on the album is as otherworldly as the above-mentioned songs, there is also nothing that will offend (ho ho). The toned-down ‘Comments In Jars’ finds Amanda, more or less, cooing sweetly along to a drum machine. The band packs up the pretty and busts out some noise on the rugged, but playful ‘Superer’. This could be a long-lost Rainer Maria or Jim Yoshii Pile-Up track (a good thing). The sparse piano-driven finale, ‘Oh, Pioneers’ winds things down appropriately, even if it’s on a rather gloomy note. (BTW, are those chirping birds I hear? If so, why are they not credited!?)
With Juxtapony Point Juncture, WA has proven, beyond a doubt, they have the chops to win a place on the starting roster and they know how to present themselves well (smashing artwork). It appears the band is planning on releasing a full-length later in the year. Here’s to hoping more people become ‘too indie’ and pay a bit of attention to it when it arrives. I know I’ll be in attendance.