Wed 26 Jan 2011
A while back, I reviewed a small release of music from a band led by an elf gal who goes by the alias of Solarbird. Well the crafty and inventive songster is back with her elf posse, CRIME and the Forces of Evil, along with a full-fledged album of new improved songs to whup our behinds with a belt!
Solarbird put forward a raffle to divvy out a series of advance copies in exchange for a review. As per my usual truculent self I said, “Funk Dat” and bought the album off the Bandcamp space. I told her to keep me out of the raffle and I was going to do a review anyway, because of course—I had already made up my mind to do so!
Last time, I was curdled and mixed about the music the band put forward. I knew I was going to give the full album a fair shot once it came out, though quite frankly I thought it would be a chore. Save for one track, the style of that first release let my expectations down and the sound grated on me.
Okay enough yapping already! What the Hek do we have here anyway?
I was impressed and surprised. Consider me totally floored.
First off, the title is awesome. I’ve stated my superhero stance before, so the title of the album, Dick Tracy Must Die, is a stance I immediately understand and sympathize with. I’m on board at the conceptual level.
I’m impressed with the Bandcamp interface—I’m all about low barriers. I got myself a high quality download and cover jpg with no-fuss and no-muss. This really is a step forward in the ability for artists to control the horizontal and vertical.
I know the site takes its cut, but right now this format kicks the music industry in their undead nutsac. I know that I’m giving most of my Ducats to the people I choose to support.
Musically, the tracks are outstanding. The audio has been cleaned up. There are lots of extras in the background for punctuation. There’s variety in the subject matter and sound while still remaining distinctive as a style. Having listened intently for a week now, I can’t think of any song that sounds unfinished—these birds are grown up and fly on their own.
Having let go of previous expectations, I can at least make that kind of objective statement about the material. It holds up as good music that has been pushed through the dip to fruition.
What I wasn’t expecting was that I would actually like the stuff.
Maybe I ought not to be surprised, since what we have here is different, interesting, and independent at its core. All stuff I really dig. It’s hard to remain unmoved by the biting insight and subtle wit of “When You Leave”, or the sincere and reasoned tenderness of “Let Me Help.”
Solarbird’s voice has been blended with the music and now the cranky, irksome elf has been replaced with a softer and more even level that lets the lyrics deliver their potency without detracting from the energy and skill of the strings. Nothing’s wasted here.
While I like some songs more than others, I can’t find a single one I dislike. There’s the outrageous and knowing humor of “My Boyfriend”, the restrained buoyancy of return in “Stars”, and the sorrowful understanding of “Thought You Knew”—the territory covered is impressive. I have yet to tire of it.
The group characterizes itself as acoustic elf-metal. I would venture to say their sound is better described as acoustic elf-chrome—lustrous, hard, and pure. This is the kind of punk music you would hear played in Rivendell when the elves had downed a few.
Or in the markets and fairs of Cascadia. Played by those few diminished immortal elves who never went into the Undying Lands, yet have enough kindness and wisdom in their hearts still to sing songs of complexity and beauty.
The elves of Middle-Earth were known for crafting items of exceptional artistry, but that only explains half of what I’m hearing. I can’t help but feel there’s an edge to all this. It’s music you’d hear played by the elves in the movie Wizards, where fantasy magic and archaic technology mix.
Solarbird has a machine gun now. Die, Dick Tracy, die!