Friday, June 5, 2015

Cassette Review: bean trees "staring at the ceiling" (weekend tapes)

[$5 // Edition of 30 //]

The songs of bean trees are described on the Bandcamp page as being home recordings done in mostly one take/live and I actually do like that sort of spontaneity in my music because you never know what to expect.   And did someone like Van Gogh paint one of his famous paintings a hundred times before finally getting it right and revealing it to the world?  I have no idea, but I don't think so.   I've always thought it was odd that music is performed live and yet nothing else really is.   Why aren't authors asked to go around and read their books or write them in front of live audiences?  It is just strange to me that someone once said, "Hey, you know that thing you once did that was cool?  Yeah, how would you feel about doing it over and over again for the rest of your life?"  And I'm not talking about playing songs, I'm talking about playing the *same* songs.

In any case, the songs on "staring at the ceiling" begin as an acoustic guitar and vocals so of course the comparisons to Daniel Johnston are going to be there.   They have a bit of a blues sound to them though, underneath it all that is right there on the surface, and that's something new for me.   The Benjamins can come out a little bit vocally for me, but then I can also hear Ten Foot Pole vocally at other times so you can take that for what it's worth since I suppose they do have some similarities.    I feel like I can hear a drum machine beat and then there is a Flaming Lips type of swirl.    There is a harmonica and then Side A ends with an audio clip.

Side B is most noted by me for having an audio clip about a woman buying "kitty litter and lunch meat".   If "kitty litter and lunch meat" is not the name of the next bean trees cassette then I'm going to have to question their decisions to take advantage of opportunities when they present themselves.   For the record, you really shouldn't feed your cats lunch meat (aka "people food") but I'm assuming this lady is old and doesn't know any better so she's buying both of those items for her cat because, I mean, why else would you buy lunch meat but not bread, right?   Am I missing something here?

The tone of the songs then can become a little angry before taking a turn for the electric.   "There's a universe in my head" is a great lyric and after another audio clip we end with a song that has the line "Gone.  Really, really gone" on repeat and I feel that if you're going to end an album on purpose (and based upon what I read about this, bean trees most likely had a notion that this would be the last song on "staring at the ceiling"), that is to say knowing about the end forthcoming, you know, just have your last song have some sense of finality to the lyrics.  

The fact that bean trees does just that pleases me and gives this cassette- no matter how seemingly random the collection of songs might be- a sense of being an actual album from start to finish which might not seem like a big deal but there are so many artists out there today that lack that quality.   I simply cannot tell you how many times I'll have an album end (usually always digitally) and I'll say outloud, "That's where you chose to end it?", so putting together a solid album structure is a trait everyone doesn't have but should.      But that's not the only thing you can learn from this cassette, so put it on and begin your adventure because today is going to be your day.

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