Thursday, December 11, 2008

Review: Gentleman Auction House - Alphabet Graveyard (* * * *)

Though I've already put up my "Top 25 of 2008" list, I'm still getting a hold of some very worthwhile new music from the past year. I completely missed out on Gentleman Auction House when they released their debut album, Alphabet Graveyard, in July, but I'm glad to be late rather than never; I've been listening to this pretty obsessively over the last week or so. The seven-piece group from Missouri, led by Eric Enger, make energetic, melodic, and intelligent indie pop that is infectious and exciting.

In the album's liner notes, three members of Gentleman Auction House are credited with playing drums or percussion and three with guitar, while a variety of other instruments (trumpet, keys, glockenspiel, etc.) are mentioned as well. With this many people doing so many things, Alphabet Graveyard could easily have become bloated or unnecessarily noisy, but the band show a remarkable amount of maturity and restraint. The arrangements feel carefully constructed and the music is tastefully executed, even at the album's oddest moments. It's a little goofy but also quite sincere, think a slightly less bombastic and more accessible Los Campesinos with a shot of funk.

The record starts with the stomping rhythm of "ABCDEFGraveyard," a fun tune with a stop-and-start beat ending with a percussion-heavy "na na na" chorus. Following is the album's first single, "Call It Casual," complete with explosive horns, boy/girl harmonies, and a rap-rock bridge. Once again, it might seem like too much, but the band pull off both tracks with style. The groovy "I Sleep In A Bed Of Scissor Arms" and the epic closer "Good Son" are a couple of my other favorites, though the best part about the album is its consistency; there's truly not a weak song to be found. It's clear that Gentleman Auction House are out to have (and provide) a good time, and they certainly succeed. Alphabet Graveyard does have it's more somber moments, but even at his most dour, Enger still sounds fairly cheerful.

Quirky, melodic, and a little abstract, Alphabet Graveyard has just the right amount of variation and experimentation to make for a thoroughly interesting listen. With strong songwriting, impressive musicianship, and a fresh, fun sound, Gentleman Auction House is a band worth keeping your ears on.

Christmas In Love - Gentleman Auction House have also recently released a Christmas EP called "Christmas In Love," which provides another dose of their unique indie sound for the holidays. It's a fun set of tunes, several of which you can hear on their MySpace page (link below).

Gentleman Auction House's MySpace Page