we speak and spell and make each other’s children

Telekinesis! by Seattle’s Telekinesis (aka Michael Benjamin Lerner) is essentially a collection of audio Polaroids – captured and created in a short time. Together, Lerner and Death Cab for Cutie’s Chris Walla set out to track and mix each song in a single day, putting it on analog tape. The lack of digital gloss gives Telekinesis! a warmer, accessible feeling befitting of the album’s character.

Opener “Rust” immediately endears the listener, as Lerner sings of a broken heart in a way that’s not sappy or conducive to eye-rolling. “Tokyo” and it’s fuzz nods to the earlier sound of the Pacific Northwest,  “Great Lakes” captures some of the Midwest’s gloom, and the keys and choir-esque backing on “Look to the East” round out Telekinesis’s sound. “Coast of Carolina” is blissful, evoking summer and all it has to offer.

Unfortunately, the end of the album is not as engaging as the beginning – “Imaginary Friend” and “All of a Sudden” are just standard indie fare, while a certain progression in “Calling All Doctors” confoundingly calls to mind “Shine” by Collective Soul (the brain works in mysterious ways).

Lucky for all of us, Lerner ends the album on the redeeming acoustic track “I Saw Lightning”. He suggests ‘let’s be in love’ – my rusty heart happily obliges.

Telekinesis! dropped 04/07/09.
Click to download “Coast of Carolina“.

the sound of ancient voices ringing soft upon your ear

On their self-titled LP, Fleet Foxes sound like the Beach Boys had they grown up in the middle of a forest instead of a sunny beach. Or like My Morning Jacket if MMJ was made up of classically-trained choir kids. Or The Shins on a granola high. Fleet Foxes paradoxically sound like everyone and no one at the same time.

The group’s main feature is their mastery of vocal harmony. It’s thick and echoing and cathedral-worthy and used more often than not, which makes lead singer Robin Pecknold’s voice that much more powerful and striking when heard on its own.

Several of Fleet Foxes’s songs evoke quasi-nebulous places, like the country road sunset of “Ragged Wood” and the dusty southwestern sprawl of “Your Protector”.

The non-verbal humming on “Heard Them Stirring” completes the overall tapestry of the piece (yes, Fleet Foxes make you use words like ‘tapestry’ – but without gagging) and the short piano addendum to “He Doesn’t Know Why” is downright beautiful.

Tracks like “Tiger Mountain Peasant Song” and “Meadowlarks” wouldn’t be out of place in your average New Age shop, but they translate well enough into the indie-folk world to keep people from smashing their heads into the wall from boredom and spite (it may be from the merciful lack of pan flutes and chimes).

Fleet Foxes dropped 06/03/08.
For the MP3 and video of “White Winter Hymnal” click here.