Sunday, July 5, 2009

One Bad-Assed Victrola

PHONOGRAPH – “OKNO” CD ’09 (BNS Sessions, US) – I’ve gotta admit, I liked New York’s PHONOGRAPH before I first even heard their music a few years ago. See, me being the old-school lad that I am, just the mere mention of the word “phonograph,” with all it’s vinyl record connotations had me hopeful about this crowd. I was thinking what a shame it would be, if I finally got their debut disc and found it to be shit, with such a great moniker. Part of my mind was set to rest assured by the label it came out on, Arclight, an imprint that seldom takes a mis-step. And, so I was more than impressed by the bands eponymous 2007 effort, a sparkling dose of that not only brought together the plaintive stylings of Tom Petty but also the more experimental leanings of Wilco taken a bit further.

With “OKNO,” PHONOGRAPH shows that they’re not the kinda cats fearin’ a sophomore slump. If anything, they’ve put out a 2nd full lengther (they also issued the “Hiawatha Talking Machine” EP in fall ’07) that steps forward with great confidence. PHONOGRAPH impresses on many fronts with this new album. The band (fronted by Matthew Welsh – vocals, guitars, keys) fuses together right from the beginning, and sound like a crew of wily vets rather than young whipper-snappers who first committed sound to disc 2 years ago. Listen to the opener “You/Me.” Overdriven guitar lines frame the cut like a jagged painting on the wall of a country farmhouse, with young Petty-like vocals dancing over a rhythm that could’ve been authored by Mark Mothersbaugh. That’s only the beginning, though. Adding Grace Potter’s vocals on the simmering fire of “Wellwisher” gives the cut ethereal chills & warm comfort in equal measure. The deep country of “Are You Gonna” speaks of a maturity and grace that belies these fellows’ years and “Mountain Tops” hoe-down romp laced with gurgling synths and choral voices is a work of brilliance. From every turn (including inviting guests like Potter, David Amram & The New York Orchestra), this band has taken their debut album and done it one better on “OKNO.” With that in mind, Realm readers who are glad to try something new and exciting, fire up your PHONOGRAPH. Ok Yes!

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