TUESDAY, JULY 08, 2008 |
Someone Else's Déjà vu (Saddle Creek), the latest release from sort-of-duo Son Ambulance (Joseph Knapp wrote most of the material, but collaborated with Jeffrey Koster), is about as appropriate a title this album could ever have. Take, for example, "A Girl in New York City," the samba-soaked track that recalls another girl from Ipanima, though it is broken up with early Kinks-style guitar riffs. The voice is at times a dead ringer for Art Garfunkel, and yet I also found myself thinking about college girl-favorites, Guster, complete with those soothing vocal harmonies. "Quand Tu Marches Seul" feels like the Spanish ballads from a Tarantino soundtrack, but with a flavor of Leonard Cohen. The Elvis Costello-sounding "Wild Roses," and "Yesterday Morning" continue this theme of songwriting-storytellers.
Yet, of all these styles Son Ambulance invokes on their album, the one with the simplest connection to trace is "Constellations," which could easily have come from their past collaborations with Bright Eyes. The vocal style is almost exactly the same, and the lyrics are particularly bad, stretching vaguely to create images that only feel clunky, yet also cliché. One particularly egregious line goes, "It's highway robbery/on your technology/where the road has been misled./you know when Edison's invention won't light up in my head." O-kay.
Essentially, the general feel of the album is that we are experiencing a multitude of other people's (specifically the songwriting pantheon's) deja vu. It is hard to tell if this is on purpose, or just an inadvertent byproduct of the dreamy sound that they are pursuing, as hinted at in the pun on "somnambulance.". While the album definitely had some bright points, and some songs--particularly "Juliet's Son"--that last beyond the first listen, the collection as a whole lacks cohesiveness and can feel very derivative. Towards the end of "Horizons," for example, I caught the melody and lyrics of the line "Let us be lovers" sung in the background, a transplant from Simon and Garfunkel's "America." It certainly gave me déjà vu, but not in the way any musician should be striving for. - eric silver