Chapter Covers Now (2005, Contraphonic)
name might imply something strange and exotic, but really this album
is quite engaging and accessible. This is mostly due to it loosely
sounding like pop music, even though if you were to listen closely
you’d fall into a chasm of different sounds. I might even
call Whichever Chapter Covers Now genre-hopping, but the
transitions are so smooth I think genre-sliding is a more appropriate
Milwaukee-based 5-piece, especially the lead singer (not accurately
named on the disc), reminds me of Buffalo Tom. But whereas Buffalo
Tom broke out of their 'Dinosaur Jr. Jr.' tag, becoming an acoustic-driven,
coffee-house outfit, El Oso simply lightened the load of sonic-guitar
noise to make room for piano, organ, and electronic tinkering. The
wide instrumental scope and carefully crafted arrangements envelop
the listener, fully present at all times but never overbearing.
Lyrics are belted out like a confident Bill Janovitz, while fluid
guitars strum from wall to wall and thin layers of electronica resonate
along the floor.
piece has its charm, sweeping in between shadowy urban-Americana
and bright, mid-tempo paced indie rock. Most tracks can be described
as lush, but 'Natural Life' (and others) add mini-explosions of
voice and piano, picking up the ear before it becomes too cushioned.
'The Great American Novel' plays the quiet/loud dynamic card but
does so with hooks, so I can’t complain. The programmed beats
and micro-synth loops mixed with organic instruments of 'Tonight’s
Now Tomorrow' is the kind of song Postal Service apers have been
looking for since 2003. The vocals are a strong ingredient in this
band's formula, so the venture into vocal effects, 'Lions' doesn't
suit well, but overall the creative stabs hit the mark rather than
miss widely as most music tagged as 'experimental' does.
El Oso have worked hard to make their music distinct, but by no
means have they declared the boundaries of their sound. That indeed,
is the sign of a band with good things ahead of them.