Avi Buffalo are just a couple of 19ish year olds, and their debut record sound is sort of mirror-like in it's reflection of the fact; scratchy voices that are obsessed with identity and spacial boundaries both physical and emotional. Their debut record is surprisingly mature musically, taking gurgling guitars and quick melodic quips underneath preoccupied lyrics. "What's in it for someone with nothing to do/What's in it for me?" they cry on the track of the (almost same name), but they certainly don't sound like they need an incentive to do any of this &mdash it comes as naturally as getting taller. They pen perfect alt-pop, arrange ooos and ahhs, and pick out guitar lines like they were born with guitars and melodies written on their hands.
Fumbles aside, they seem to do the dance with an absurd amount of grace for a band that is essentially a bunch of kids. Where you'd expect loud, fast, or at least bombastically disproportionate aesthetics, the Buffalo gang work in tandem more efficiently than most adult couples. Avigdor Zahner-Isenberg (what a name) often sounds whimpy and close to a crack, but it isn't an act... you can hear the sincerity in his strain. Lines sung in pairs sound as they should, two voices trying to figure each other out in the back of a car. Lyrics span from pleasant metaphors to candid uses of "flacid" and "Summer Cum" (real song title); not exactly NPR bait, but never overstated for shock's shake. "You are tiny and your lips are little pieces of bacon" is perhaps the most absolutely perfect cross-section of the quirky, delightful, odd lyricism of the band. It's charming in a boarder-line creepy kind of way.
The arrangements are also striking, piano riffs accompany as they should, crescendos swell and taper like breaths of air, harmonies are plentiful and reserved at once. Songs like "Jessica" take the atmospherics and elongate them a bit too much at the ends, but lingering isn't necessarily a fault in such a meticulously woven tapestry of sounds. It isn't ADD, it's more like a dramatic, fleeting obsession with a classmate, or a moment of profundity. Based on the musical berth of this band, they have a sh*t ton of those.
These guys are composed of bits of Wilco, The Shins (but only the good songs), Built To Spill, and many others, all scraps of paper pasted to cardboard in a big Buffalo collage. Avi Buffalo aren't nearly finished figuring out who they are, but this is definitely a good first draft, and still a damn good read. -joe puglisi
* * * * * * * * * * * *
MP3: "What's In It For?" (Avi Buffalo)
Avi Buffalo on Myspace