NO COUNTRY FOR NEW NASHVILLE
I’m honestly not sure how I missed the boat on Austin-based The Lennings (or is it just Lennings? I’m seeing it both ways and I always get after people for The Pixies/Pixies thing) until now. The band describes themselves as “proudly blurring the line between Americana and indie pop” and I couldn’t have classified them better myself. Bearing strong influence from both Americana and indie pop, they’ve perfectly carved out their own niche sound that doesn’t especially fit into either camp; it’s familiar yet wholly and pleasantly unique. More importantly, they write damn good songs. Inside is an even-keeled, poppy yet intelligent, light yet engrossing, fast-moving yet fulfilling, and lyrically sharp treat of an album. The instrumentation is tasteful and layered, yet never overwhelms the need of the song- perfectly genre-jumping so seamlessly it never breaks the strong fluidity of the record. It’s hard to name a standout track because Inside is packed tight with catchy, strong, and diverse (yet perfectly matched) songs that could all be singles (and, apparently have been appearing on numerous television placements as of late). The band shines most when they let their folky tendencies fly beneath singer Jason Silverberg’s melodically entrancing and emotionally well-crafted vocal and lyrical delivery. In an age when the fast, Mumford & Sons take on folk is popping up everywhere, it’s refreshing to see a band like The Lennings (more akin to Good Old War, yet even heavier on the indie pop side) offer a more thoughtful, reserved take on the genre that lets their songs breathe and carry a heavier emotional resonance. The Lennings are a pretty incredible band and Inside is their best, most balanced effort to date. They’re also an exciting bridge between two of Austin’s strongest musical camps of the moment, and I expect you’ll be hearing quite a bit more from them in the future.
Cada dia que pasa aparacen nuevas bandas y la clave es saber y poder estar en el momento exacto para poder pillarlas al vuelo y que no se pierdan en el anonimato. Lennings es una de esas bandas que he podido cazar ultimamente. Tal vez no lleguen a ser archiconocidos, pero no por ello hay que discutir que en su propuesta hay mucho talento. Ya tienen dos trabajos en su carrera: el primero, Big Beige Car, vio la luz en 2007 y el año pasado, en diciembre, lanzaron su segunda placa, Inside. Este nuevo disco sube un peldaño a un grupo que camina despacio pero por terreno firme. Sin ser una banda original en su sonido, lo cierto es que siempre se agradece el poder escuchar buenas y sencillas canciones que, en muchos casos, son las que acaban calando.
Eso es lo que me sucedió cuando escuché B-12 y luego Hologram. En su simplicidad, su ritmo y su melodía radica el éxito de estas dos canciones. Y es que así es el mini universo de Lennings, sencillo pero armonioso, y con letras muy íntimas que narran historias tristes vividas por los componentes del grupo. En todo el trabajo se respira un claro aire indie que se entremezcla con el folk y el pop, usando instrumentos adicionales como el banjo y la mandolina, para dar forma a un tipo de disco que siempre es bueno tener en el coche.
Para hacerse una idea de lo que nos podremos encontrar en este trabajo, siempre es bueno hablar de influencias. Y aquí están bastante claras, más aún cuando el propio cantante, Jason Silverberg, asegura que "The Beatles son mi religión". Pero, si tuviéramos que citar a bandas más recientes en las que se fijan podríamos hablar de Wilco y algo de Band of Horses. No obstante, para salir de dudas, y para que tú tampoco los dejes escapar, lo mejor es que le des alplay.
Each day that passes new bands appear, and the key is to know and to be at the right time to catch them on the fly and do not get lost in anonymity. Lennings is one of those bands that have been hunting lately. Maybe not become too familiar, but no need to discuss that much talent in his proposal. They already have two jobs in his career: first, Big Beige Car, was released in 2007 and last year, in December, they released their second album, Inside. This new album goes a step to a group that walks slowly but solid ground. Without being an original band in their sound, the fact is that always appreciated being able to hear good simple songs that in many cases, are those just getting through. That's what happened to me when I heard B-12 and then Hologram. In its simplicity, its rhythm and melody lies the success of these two songs. And so is the mini universe Lennings, simple but harmonious and very intimate letters that tell sad stories experienced by the group members. In all the work a clear indie air mingles with folk and pop, using additional instruments like the banjo and mandolin, to shape a type of disc that is always good to have in the car breathe. To get an idea of hat we can find in this work, it is always good to talk about influences. And here are quite clear, especially when the singer himself, Jason Silverberg says that "The Beatles are my religion." But if we were to cite more recent bands that are fixed we could talk about Wilco and some Band of Horses. However, out of doubt, and for you not let them escape, it is best that you give a play.
The Lennings, an Austin group straddling the divide between folk and pop. While they aren’t averse to offering stripped-down covers of glitzy songs—their version of the Grease hit "You're The One That I Want" starred in an episode of NBC’s Parenthood—they also can explode with post-rock aplomb.
BEST OF TEXAS
Though it is no secret I’m a fan of Austin’s The Lennings and the band’s first effort, Big Beige Car, I was nervous when they asked me to review their latest release. See, it has been my experience that many bands, at least when it comes to creating their sophomore release, suffer from an illness I like to call BiggerLouderBolder. I can only suppose this may sometimes be caused by insecurity, an over-inflated ego, or a combination of the two. Fortunately for The Lennings, it would seem they are thus far immune to this malady.
While everything about The Lennings’ Big Beige Car was beautifully produced, gorgeously orchestrated and perfectly polished, their new endeavor, Geographic Tongue, is a five song study in the band’s unflagging confidence, a paring down of the superfluous and a deliberate sandpapering of shiny edges – and it pays off.
Recorded in just six days, the EP’s five vignettes are rough hewn in all the right ways and brought to life with solid songwriting and warm vocals.
Geographic Tongue opens with ‘Section C,’ a delightfully folk poppy tune, tinged with big bright banging piano and drum marchiness that rivals Mick Avery’s best work on The Kinks’ Arthur (Or the Decline and Fall of the British Empire). Add to this a touch of cranky cello and guitar, and you have a song that swells into a lustrously lazy bridge before going out with a bang. It’s a big song to open an EP with, but the subsequent body of work stands up strong – delicately hopping between Americana, rock and indie folk - closing with ‘I’ll Make a Scene,’ an OK Computer-esque epic that could’ve easily gone wrong if it weren’t for the band’s ability to harness the power of subtle urgency. The full bore, contrived, arena rock build-up that painfully plagues the end of so many albums these days is absent. In its stead we are left with solid climactic craftsmanship which gives both the song and album powerful closure.
For me, Geographic Tongue is as lovely as it is provocative and acts as a reminder of the thing I admire most about the band, both recorded and live: The Lennings, vocally and musically, continue to brilliantly manipulate an impossible thread of continuity that links folk to rock to Americana to indie pop. And it makes my ears ‘asplode with joy.
I know this review reads like a love letter, and I’m not at all ashamed of that. So there.
BIG WESTERN FLAVOR
The Lennings are operating in well-worn territory, doing another variation on that Phil Spector-ized mono AM radio folk-rock thing that will be familiar to listeners of the Microphones, the Walkmen, and so forth. Whether that music succeeds or not is entirely down to songwriting, and the Lennings have some excellent ideas at times. "I'll Make a Scene" is the musical equivalent of driving during a lovely sunset with the windows fogged over, complete with a breakdown in the middle equivalent to going through a tunnel. The extra details in their arrangements and tiny bits of electronic wash in the background make all the difference. "You're the One That I Want," with its rote chord progression and obvious lyrics, is proof by negative example of how important the little extra touches are to the "post-folk" genre. The absolutely lovely "Floyd," on the other hand, has a funneled intro and a never-quite-fully-developed drum part that throw its relatively simple main body into sharp relief.
Tranquil and subtle sound hues come forth from The Lennings’ Big Beige Car. The Austin, Texas set of “brothers” have put together a hazy summer day’s mix discussing abstract and everyday objects (e.g., an oversized hat, a house, the afterglow of spending all one’s money, etc.) while incorporating a vast array of musical instruments (banjo, lo-fi guitar, melodica, pedal steel, etc.). Yet the substance remains simple and never overbearing. An ingenious color wheel in the liner notes describes who plays what instrument on each song (eight people are on the record with a ninth, Jason Silverberg, credited with composition). The group probably has a penchant for the random and abnormal coupled with a love for chemistry or perhaps a love of The Princess Bride (with songs like “Betadine,” “Iocaine,” and “Iocaine 2”), as this hodgepodge of elements combines for a jaunty and smooth collection of material.
Jason Lemming (a.k.a. Jason Jinyma) sings lead vocals on all songs (except the instrumental “Iocaines”), and he traverses the lyrics with a breathless, gentle touch. He even provides the harmony parts, sometimes recalling the likes of the Lovin’ Spoonfuls’ “What a Day for a Daydream” (this critic’s favorite, “Nazareth”) or M. Ward (“Bike”). Essentially, listening to this record will result in immediate obsession and audiences should prepare to be both fascinated and aurally wooed.