Review Summary: Pedro The Lion, and Modest Mouse, and Iron & Wine! Oh, my!
From that first muffled guitar lick layered over the soft hum of room noise in the opening seconds, it’s apparent that Lost Notes From Forgotten Songs
isn’t a typical Six Parts Seven album. This isn’t TSPS at all. This is Iron & Wine, Carissa’s Wierd, Modest Mouse, Centro-Matic, The Black Heart Procession, The Magic Magicians, Brian Straw, The Young People, and David Bazan (in order of appearance). And this isn’t any old remix album, but instead a complete reconstruction from scratch, where the outcome is an interpretation that may completely abandon all roots of the original. Typically, TSPS are known for their quiet, pensive, yet slightly predictable instrumental/post-rock that dissolves into the backdrop of your brain. Don’t expect stirring crescendos and emotive climaxes, but rather pulsing, rhythm-driven songs with catchy guitar interplay that sometimes infuses with other mild instrumentation (simple piano, strings, etc.)--all creating a swirling yet carefully crafted soundscape. That is TSPS, but Lost Notes
is none of that.
With the original back catalogue tracks, mostly from Things Shaped In Passing
, there never seems to be a distinct melody line brimming above the rest of the mix. Everything feels balanced but never really going anywhere, lulling the listener into a trance. It would be blatantly incorrect to say that the artists involved in Lost Notes
are simply breathing new life into old songs by adding vocals or rearranging track segments, because they’re doing so much more. They’re burrowing in with their individual characters. These songs don’t read as remixes or variations, but instead entirely new creations. Iron & Wine’s Sam Beam opens with the hushed, stripped down, “Sleeping Diagonally.” This isn’t Beam pretending to craft a sound that infuses with TSPS, but we have the typical whispered vocals plus guitar combo that feels like it’s extracted from any early Iron & Wine album. This concept is consistent throughout: the artists aren’t trying to be more than themselves. Isaac Brock’s (Modest Mouse) voice is still as shaky and playful as usual in “From California to Houston, On Lightspeed,” as he precariously sighs, “Nothing is easy, I know.”
flaunts its diversity with songs like “Seems Like Most Everything Used to Be Something Else,” where electronic fuzz is the foundation under Pall Jenkin’s (The Black Heart Procession) vocals. With “Cold Things Never Catch Fire,” we see one of the most dramatic departures from TSPS; where vocals were once non-existent, they are now the song’s substance, and where TSPS create cozy, precise, and harmonious songs, Katie Eastburn’s (The Young People) version has a harshness and one-take-recording carelessness that begins to feel like it’s grasping too desperately to be set apart as an abstract art piece, from the blatant lack of structure and off-putting production to that raspy shriek near the end. David Bazan’s (Pedro the Lion) album closer, “A Blueprint of Something Never Finished,” also has a bedroom feel to the production, but the emotion seems genuine, as the words seep out “you should have never been unfaithful…” with the blunt and human follow up, “you should have never ***ed with me.” The standout track, though, would have to be “Now Like Photographs,” by the seemingly undiscovered Brian Straw, clocking in close to thirteen minutes. Owed to the vocal presentation and minor tonality, the track is brooding and dark, with the instruments braiding perfectly together without ever feeling cluttered. The outcome is invigorating and new, with the dual banjo lines superimposing an otherworldly sound overtop the drums/bass/ambience, stretching out the second half of the song with an entrancing instrumental coda.
really feels like an archive of forgotten songs, where each of the artists finally decided to un-shelve their old, dusty recordings, and TSPS simply provided a home for the tracks to all settle in. Though Lost Notes
feels more like a foster house full of children from all around town instead of a cohesive album, the makeshift family is quite welcoming.