Tortoise is a post-rock band that only writes instrumentals, so these guys are tough to describe. I’m going to do my best, though, and I hope you guys like it.
When I joined this site, Tortoise was one of those bands I expected to see covered a great deal. When I saw that TNT
was given the love it deserves, but noticed that Standards
wasn’t even listed
, I knew I had to remedy the problem.
To be sure, TNT
is an excellent album and it deserves all the praise it gets. But Standards
, the follow-up to TNT
, has less “noodling" and I really believe it’s a better album overall.
Instead of going track-by-track, I’m just going to go over a few highlights.
First off, I have to talk about album opener “Seneca." As any Tortoise fan already knows, these guys usually know how to kick off an album with a bang, and Standards
is no exception. “Seneca" begins with two minutes of feedback and drums, but right when you start to wonder if the whole track is nothing but noise, a quick beat begins. It sort of reminds me of “Jetty" from TNT
Once the beat starts, “Seneca" starts to evolve, with a new element being thrown on top of the mix every half-minute or so. First, there’s a guitar riff, then some weird noises that sound almost like a dog squealing, then another guitar part, then some playful handclaps … you get the idea. These guys are clearly having fun.
Anyway, this is a great, bizarre track and it’s actually my favorite Tortoise composition. I mean, who doesn’t love handclaps? Someone with no hands, I suppose, but they’re just jealous.
“Six Pack," another highlight, will remind fans of TNT
tracks such as “Swung From the Gutters." It has some great guitar and bass work, and the percussion helps everything blend together remarkably well.
Right after “Six Pack" is “Eden 2," another excellent track. To be honest, it reminds me of “Army of Me" from Bjork’s Post
, so much so that I picture the “Army of Me" video whenever I hear it. Still, though, it is certainly its own beast. And instead of hearing Bjork’s voice, you get to just focus on the rhythm. “Eden 2" is short, especially for a Tortoise track, but it is certainly worth checking out.
After the one-two punch of “Six Pack" and “Eden 2," we come to “Monica," my favorite track on the album besides “Seneca." The first minute or so is nothing but a smooth, relaxing beat that sounds a lot like something hip-hop producer J-Dilla/Jay Dee would have produced. If anybody has heard his production on Common’s Be
, particularly “Love Is," the opening to “Monica" sounds like that. If you haven’t heard Be
, sorry, but the comparison is so strong that I had to point it out.
(Hell, if you haven’t heard Be
, just go find it. It’s a great album. And J-Dilla’s Donuts
is essential, too.)
After the intro I’ve probably spent too much time discussing, the band just throws a lot of percussion at the track and experiments with whatever sticks. I don’t know how much these guys practice before recording, but “Monica" sounds like the guys just having a lot of fun with some basic sounds. It’s a fun song and one I can just keep listening to over and over.
The album closes with “Speakeasy," a moody piece that takes time to build. Once it does, though, it has enough emotion that you could compare it to one of the later tracks from DJ Shadow’s Endtroducing
, though I wouldn’t go as far as saying its as good as anything on that record. “Speakeasy" is creepy and dirty, but I love it and it ends the album on a superb note.
is an excellent post-rock record. There isn’t a bad track in the bunch, but “Seneca" and “Monica" are obvious highlights.
I’m sure this wasn’t the best review in the world, but like I said, describing this band isn’t easy. If you like instrumentals that aren’t always necessarily catchy, give Standards
a shot. It is at least as good as TNT
. I personally think it is superior.