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Shmat's Reviews
For more reviews, please visit Palebear which is where all future Shmat reviews will appear (as of March 2006).

This Bank Holiday
Home Time Is Safe Time (CD)

There is a thin, wobbly line that a lot of singer-songwriter hometrackers are teetering on nowadays. I think I've gone on record before about how the easy availability of recording technology and CD-R burning has changed forever the indie public's reception of these insular musical "gifts" to the world. The nascent wunderkiddy hiding in the bedroom can no longer hide behind anonymity and cuteness as a selling point for the music because there's just too large of a pool of potential room-rockstars putting out product. I don't want to preach, but it feels to me that the key to discerning the true bedroom superhero from mere 4-track mortals is the balance between catchiness and inventiveness. Without the former, there is not enough chance for the music to resonate with a larger audience. Catchy tunes make us play the album more the once. But, as evidenced by all those discs I've tossed that featured ONLY catchy acoustic guitar tunes, you need something else other than a well-written tune to help you stand out from the crowd. Although, too much wanking and mathematics, and the self-contained often comes across as the self-absorbed.

In the best of the home recorder bunch, the hit parts of songs lead to a curious infection; by association, they seem to breed a familiarity in those obscure parts where no such recognition should occur. The minutiae become momentous. This Bank Holiday is pretty much a shining example of how that can work. I'll confess that I was pretty eagerly awaiting Home Time Is Safe Time ... I know the Asaurus label pretty well so I was pretty sure it would be good. Well, the expectations were well founded. Here, Matthew Baringer (often known as the tireless force behind Asaurus Records itself) presents 11 songs that at times reverberate grandly and at others refuse to remain still, flickering out of the corner of your subconscious like fireflies.

Like perhaps his two nearest neighbors Grandaddy and Sparklehorse, Baringer has a clear grasp on what makes the obscure important in a song. This was entirely recorded within the confines of his basement in Allen Park, Michigan, and it feels like we have a front row seat watching the creation of these splendid and drony songs, such as "Even In The Future Nothing Works". Dynamically, the song is split into two sections; the normal part of which sounds sort of Folk Implosion-ish, but then building up into a soaring ending that completely hooks the listener in. The more esoteric "He Prefers The Movie Novelization", with its strange organ chords and guitar major 7ths, forms a perfect bridge to the lazy-eyed pop of "Matthew Visits (And Learns To Like) The People's Republic of China". Once again something memorable (in this case a guitar line that strangely reminded me of Debussy) acts as the glue that helps bind in the other parts of the music, including fun descending casio beeps.

"Bed for One" and "Bed for Two" form a couplet that spans the length of the album, combining the surely hopeless with the surely hopeful. The former is a condensed, acoustic Palace Bros. - like lament and the latter a charming pop track infused with the glossy shimmer of keyboard bells. "Look I'm Just Another Member Of The Food Chain" (you might have noticed Baringer's predilection for long, whimsical song titles) starts off like twinkling starlight and then simply implodes into a cacophony of thick chords and drums. On "Draw The Inside of A Pillow", there are telephone-like synths swimming through a haze of distorted guitar before blowing out into a cymbal driven tour de force. Man, he's sure got that whisper-to-a-distorted-dream action down pat.

"Are You Sure You Didn't Just Make Thousands Of Mistakes", at least in the beginning, reminds me of Hayden with that TV whispering in the background and simple acoustic guitar and voice. My favorite track is the near shoegazey "Whitney Wants To See The Receipts". This song sort of epitomizes to me what makes the experience of being a closet musician alternately a lonely plight as well as an inspiring endeavor. I should mention that there actually an accompanying video for this song on the Asaurus site that mostly consists of Matthew looking through a bunch of receipts in his closet. Sound underwhelming? Actually it's very touching, watch it and see.

I won't even try to describe the near-operatic construction that is "Dine And Pay Cash". This is really such an amazing standalone vehicle that I don't really want to spoil it by throwing more words at it. In fact, I should probably wrap it up. Throughout the album there is the mixture of a lackadaisical, stay-at-home-on-Fridays feel with an innate sense of musical urgency, often conflicting within the same song. Salad dressing, oil and vinegar. It's this winning combination, the balance of the personal and universal, and the minimal tricks that does it for me. If the votes could be tallied now, this would clearly be one of the better albums this year.

- review by BY (7.2.04)        

Asaurus Records
PO Box 0664
Allen Park, MI 48101-0664

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