Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Review: Or, The Whale - Light Poles and Pines (* * * 1/2)

Or, The Whale is a California-based country band featuring seven members in total, playing a variety of instruments from accordion to guitar to saw, and six of whom are listed as singers (at least in the liner notes). Frontman Alex Robins leads the group on a wide-ranging journey through alternative country music that showcases the band's talent and sense of melody on their debut, Light Poles and Pines, which was re-released this past January.

"Call and Response," a rolling backwoods rocker, opens the album with an explosion of guitar, banjo and edgy lyrics that immediately captures your attention. When Or, The Whale keep things moving quickly, the results are consistently strong, as evidenced by tracks like the bluegrass-tinged "Threads," the pop-country "Fixin' To Leave," and "Gonna Have To," where one of the band's female members shares vocals duties. While Robins' takes the vast majority of the lead vocal on 'Light Poles,' he seems in danger of being overshadowed by those of his bandmates who possess stronger voices, especially on the more gentle, melancholy tunes like "Rope Don't Break," and "Isn't She Awful." The group blend so well together, though, that no matter the singer, the best moments are always those filled with plenty of harmony.

The music of Light Poles and Pines is what holds things together and causes the album to work as well as it does. Each song is filled to the brim with spot-on instrumentation that is ear-pleasing without ever feeling overdone. I'm a sucker for a good banjo line and some jangly guitar, a combination which Or, The Whale have down to a science, and with each bit of slide guitar or keys thrown into the mix, I'm a little more hooked. It's not exactly groundbreaking, but it is fun, expressive, and entertaining music with an immediate impact.

The band do feel a little bit unfocused at times, though the album's variety is certainly interesting. With a wealth of talent and ideas at their disposal, Or, The Whale have a good thing going, a solid base upon which they can build. This is their first album, and I imagine it will only get better from here.


Oscar Jones said...

Or, The Whale is a great band with a very nice sound for all! Or, The Whale's song Datura is currently #24 on the Top Country Indie Chart for the second week in a row! Discover a new band that you will love and VOTE for them at so they can get the feature of the week!
Click on