Monday, October 13, 2008

Reviews: Keane, Benoit Pioulard

Keane - Perfect Symmetry (* * * 1/2)
Ten seconds into the first track and lead single, "Spiralling," you might be wondering when Maroon 5 became such a big influence on Tim Rice-Oxley and Co. Having previously suffered (unfavorable even) comparisons to Coldplay and other sensitive piano-rockers, Keane seem to be seeking to set themselves apart from the pack.

Admittedly, I've never been a big Keane fan, but "Spiralling" was so funky, groovy, and just...un-Keane like that I decided to give Perfect Symmetry a try. While they haven't completely abandoned their piano pop sound from previous albums (You Don't See Me, Perfect Symmetry, etc. sound familiar), the band does make a serious effort to jazz things up. The bouncy, hand-clap filled "Better Than This" and the soul-meets-80's pop anthem "Pretend That You're Alone" show a side of Keane I hope they continue to show more often.

Perfect Symmetry still relies on too many of Keane's old tricks, but it also contains some of their strongest and most interesting material. At the very least, it's a promising step in the right direction.

Favorite Tracks: "Spiralling," "Better Than This," "Pretend That You're Alone"

Benoit Pioulard - Temper (* * * *)
Benoit Pioulard is the stage name of singer-songwriter and multi-instrumentalist Thomas Meluch. Temper is Meluch's sophomore effort, though he's been self-releasing music since 2001. Other than that, I haven't been able to find out much about him except that he was a drummer for several other bands before starting Benoit Pioulard. What is apparent, though, is that Meluch is a young, ambitious, and talented artist who has crafted a unique and fascinating ambient folk album.

Temper is an album much better appreciated and enjoyed when listened to in one sitting and in order. At 16 tracks and only 38 minutes, the tracks blend together almost seamlessly, with plenty of spacey, ambient interludes and few tracks approaching the three minute mark. That's not to say that Temper doesn't have it's share of worthwhile singles; "Ahn," "Golden Grin," and "Idyll," among others, sound fine in isolation, but even better in context. The album has a dark, ethereal sound that stems from Meluch's soft, haunting vocals and love for textures and details; primarily using the guitar and a variety of ambient effects and sounds.

Temper is probably too abstract for some and too light on substance for others, but the patient listener will be richly rewarded by the Benoit Pioulard's beautiful arrangements and careful presentation. The album provides an experience both strange and wonderful.

Favorite Tracks: "Idyll," "Ahn," "Hesperus"