I wrote a couple of days ago that the new Idaho record, Vieux Carré, was doing very good things to my ears. And you know, it really is. But I was a-thinking about how much I was enjoying it, and how familiar some of the songs seemed to be. And then I checked the track-list again. Oh my. Well aren't I the fool. Vieux Carré is a German compilation. I don't know if it's a "best of" or simply a retrospective, but these songs have all been previously released.
All the more reason to buy it when it's released in September.
Idaho's not a household name, even in indie circles. And yet for twelve years Jeff Martin and his shifting band has been recording thoughtful, breathing rock music - like a river that snakes through the deep woods, dark grey and rarely visited. Idaho's not an act with sparkle, with confetti bursts. But in their best work, the slowdrifting songs seem to come alive with feeling. The overcast sky bursts suddenly, terrifically, into a downpour. Whereas Low's beauty seems heavily considered, worked towards, Idaho makes these overcast songs that occasionally and unexpectedly blossom. When the band fails, the songs simply drudge and drudge and end (see also the Red House Painters). But when they succeed, the music is glorious, magic, and maybe even timeless.
If inconsistency is the plague, however, a well-selected compilation is the cure. And Vieux Carré is wonderful. Some selections:
Idaho - "Bass Crawl". Rudderless noise and then that slow bass crawl, a human pulse. This is a song about breaking out of love, gulping up for air, of leaving it so that you can return. The love is whitecharged, beautiful. It's the arcs of an electric guitar, the rosy shadow of Malone Koenig's backup vocals. When Martin begins to sing, she's there - the guitar's smile, that quiet "underloaded" voice. Later the guitar circles back, still calling him, but when we return to Jeff Martin's singing - Koenig's gone. He's left her behind. Now Martin's alone with the guitar's beautiful pleading sound, that visceral memory. He steels himself, he tries to explain, he listens to his bloodflow and tries to feel the grounding bassline. He lets the noise flame on its own. Originally released on 1997's Forbidden EP.
Idaho - "To Be the One". 2000's Hearts of Palm featured the same basic lineup as the Forbidden EP - Martin with guitarist Dan Seta. "To Be the One," however, showcases none of "Bass Crawl"'s guitar solos. Instead, it's a flush, whirring love-song. An organ winds around Martin's voice, drums appearing like perfect coincidences. It's at once gloomy and aglow, a warm piano and cool atmospherics. Martin lets the song slow to a plod, everything stretching out for just a moment... and then drums, chord change, the stirring lift of the chorus. "What you're talking 'bout is pure." Perhaps they're words for doe-eyed indieboys, but as the song warms it's so very hard to stay cynical.
this review is/was posted at Tangmonkey.com
and is available here for archival purposes only