Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Album Review: "Home" by Midtown Dickens

Home was released by Midtown Dickens on April 3, 2012
 on Trekky Records.  The album release show is on
April 7 at The Cat's Cradle
This album couldn't be more aptly titled.  Midtown Dickens' rustic and nostalgic vibes have always jumped right out of their music and defined the band as one that's immediately relatable, sincere, and most importantly lovable.  Home is the band's second full-length album, but this one marks a bit of a step up from their debut effort.  For starters, Home is produced by Scott Solter, known mostly for producing greats like The Mountain Goats, John Vanderslice, and Okkervil River, Solter has made the album feel much more polished than Lanterns but still maintains its grounded sense of minimalistic sounds.  It doesn't feel overproduced or out of the Dickens' comfort zone, it sounds eerily familiar to their intimate shows that are filled with hoots and hollers, foot-stomping jams, and occasionally a soft and delicate song that's led with beautifully fingerpicked banjo or guitar that somehow evolves into yet another raucous sing-a-long.

Midtown Dickens have started picking up steam with this latest release, NPR is beginning to catch on, the band went on tour with The Mountain Goats last year, and they'll be playing at Pickathon in Portland with the likes of Neko Case, Phosphorescent, Blitzen Trapper, and much much more.  It seems as if the nation is finally taking notice of this gem of an act that's been hidden quietly in the Triangle for years now, but with Home the band's shouts and croons are finally carrying the weight they deserve.  The band will celebrate their album release with Diali Cissokho and Kairaba at The Cat's Cradle this Saturday, April 7.

Home is filled with the theme of comfort, youth, and well...home.  Opening track "Home All Ways" begins with a slow picked acoustic guitar the quickly builds and glides along with the soothing voice of Catherine Edgarton.  The title is an excellent example of the clever wordplay that pops up within these songs, a play on "Home Always", the band makes quirky and oftentimes unnoticeable lyrical gems like this that allow for you to go back and listen repeatedly to pick up on new and exciting facets of the songs. After "Home All Ways" we get the joyous live favorite of "Elephant", a perfect display of the band's vivacity and knack for harmonies.  Kym and Catherine are a pair that perfectly play off of one another, whether it be the chemistry with their live act or the sheer joy that comes from hearing the two's vocals side by side.  "Don't let 'em forget you/Elephants never do", they take simple themes and give them a beautiful complexity that continues throughout the album.

Home takes you back to barefoot days of running around the neighborhood with friends and loved ones, back to days with less cares, more simplicity, but an appreciation for the wonders around you.  Lines like that found in "Apple Tree" with "You ain't goin' anywhere in those shoes" sound straight out of a southern childhood, and hell the entire song "Crocodile Mile" could practically echo days of anyones youth.  "Look at that neck child/How'd you get those dirt rings", Edgarton sings, "My friends slip n' slide/Lining up for the crocodile mile".  Vivid imagery that covers such simple and relatable themes is what makes Midtown Dickens so special.  "This Is My Home" ends the album with a simple song but also with an encapsulating image of the themes displayed on the album, it covers fear, love, courage, innocence and acceptance.  "It's dark in here, it's much darker than on that swing/It's so dark in here, I'll pretend that I'm not scared of anything", a youthful sense of fear that's approached with the experiences and realities of adulthood.

Fueled with stomps, claps, harmonies, and oodles of stringed instruments that create a dense soundscape, Midtown Dickens have crafted a beautiful record that plays out perfectly with pacing, structure, and depth.  It's filled with a wonderful sense of innocence, and childlike wonder viewed through the lens of road-worn adults.  Everyone has felt the feelings displayed on Home, and that's what makes the album so special.  An instantly relatable album that has a strong sense of identity is hard to find, but Midtown Dickens have written one that does just that.  This is a bold leap from Lanterns but Midtown Dickens takes it in stride and their footing never fumbles, this is a truly wonderful album and a huge standout for this year's releases in not only the Carolina music scene, but the national one as well.

No comments:

Post a Comment