10 January 2014

Review: Yarn - Idiot Pop

Today we are visiting the second of two albums I am reviewing for my good and dear friend Tom Arnold, and today we will visit a project that I believe he had more creative input in, a disc called Idiot Pop, under the name Yarn.  Those of you who know of my witty banter with Tom, will take as a given that there are many jokes that can be made about the name of the album, and the term "Idiot" in that title.

Again, the construction of said jokes are left as an exercise to the reader.

This project was recorded in the mid-2000's, but did not see a physical release.  It's now available online at this website, and I-Tunes may even sell it.  Tom worked with songwriter Simon Young on this release, so I have to assume that any good bits are Simon's.  The notes on the website describe this as intelligent English pop, so we shall see what we have in store for us...

My thoughts...

  • Intro:  A relaxed intro to the album, mellow and laid back.  Well produced and calming.  Kind of 70's-ish in feel, but I say that in a good way.  No vocals so far.  Perhaps it would have been too pretentious to call this an overture, and I'll have to see if any of the themes from this intro crop up in any of the songs in the set.  
  • Personality:  Ooh, a rocker!  This starts with some great upbeat guitar/drum/Hammond sound driving the track along.  The voice has a distinct sound to its quality, and is easily understood, which is not always the case with modern music.  Sounds like it's about the travails of being a pop star, which I know from experience is a rough life... Nice backing "la-la's" in the third verse.  Subtle, which makes it okay in my book.  
  • Painter:  Almost funky in the start.  Keyboard on a Mellotron flute setting in the intro?  I like this song, it's quirky in a light, fun way.  A note.  Some of the endings of the songs tend to fade abruptly.  I'm not sure if that's an artifact of the MP3, or is actually how the album was mixed/mastered.  
  • When We're Gone:  A more laid back track here.  Reflective about being gone, of being thought about in absence.  Now that's a Mellotron at the end of the chorus!  Lots going on in this track during the verse.  It may be a bit too busy, but it has a 60's vibe to it that does still work.
  • Everybody:  This is a lighter track, but it feels a bit too robotic to me in the choruses, where I feel it should swing and be a bit looser.  The bass and drums are a bit *too* in lock with each other.  Perhaps the track could be better served with a different arrangement.  I think the song itself is pretty good, it simply needs better dressing.
  • Stop the War:  The opening makes me feel like an older song from the 50's or early 60's.  Almost like lounge music that I'd see in a movie from that era.  Black and white, the lead walks into the smoky hotel bar, looking for his hookup for the evening.  She's at the bar, smoking a cigarette, looking off into the distance, while this song plays in the background... 
  • A Better Way:  A good mix of louder and quieter sections in this song, but still not in your face.  It's very well balanced in that respect.  Nice vocal harmony in the arrangement.  A short track, at a tick under two minutes.  I'd prefer there to be a bit more to this one, it felt like it was just getting started when it ended.
  • Making Monkeys:  A real sax in the track?  I think so... Another happy fun number, with a good drive along to the ending.  This is a good fun track, with a bouncy feel to it that makes me groove along with it.  
  • I Do:  Slow Fender Rhodes starts the track.  A bit more serious?  A love song, that picks up after the start of the track.  A bit of melancholy in the verses, so I'm not quite sure if the singer is happy about this situation or not.  It certainly doesn't feel that way, but perhaps I'm mis-reading the tone of the song?
  • Black Sheep:  A happy guitar starts the song, chording along.  Some horns in the verses make me think of some stereotypical Mexican music, but it does seem to work.   Again, this song feels happy to me, and I'm glad to be happy with it.
  • Bend in the River:  Brushes on the drums.  And then, it turns into a more groove oriented song, with Hammond organ and piano driving the song along.  Is this an instrumental?  No vocals yet... Yes, I think it is all instrumental.  There certainly could have been vocals, with the structure of the song, but I don't mind their absence.  I would like the Hammond bits a bit higher in the mix during the verses.  
  • Wings:  Not a tribute to the Paul McCartney band, although the intro piano sounds a tiny bit like the start of "Let It Be."  Not a Wings song, I know, but it is McCartney.  But back to this track.  It's a piano ballad.  It's okay.  Not jumping out at me to catch my attention, but I guess every album needs a track like this?  The solo in the middle of the track echoes the vocal melody nicely.  
  • Golden Egg:  The longest song on the album, clocking in at 4:52.  The laid back intro goes into a Hammondish/spacey sounding section, with the drums still clicking along to their pattern.  I'm interested in where this is going, as again, we don't have vocals yet...  The piano is playing what could be a vocal melody, but I'm past the halfway mark here, so I think we're in instrumental land.  I like it... 
  • With Everything:  And at the end, we conclude with a jumble of instruments and vocal snippets.  Truly, with everything.  Psychedelia without the drugs?  Clocking in at 1:44, something like this is about a minute too long.  
Overall, I enjoyed this disc.  When the tracks come up on random play on my computer, I certainly am not going to skip the songs, except for perhaps 'With Everything,' as it doesn't appear to bear up to repeated listening.  Although, perhaps repeated listening will reveal its charms?  On a 5 point rating scale, I'll give this 3.5 stars.    


Anonymous said...

It's a work of genius!

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