Volcano! – Pinata

Rating: ★★★½ ·

I’m going to say this right off the bat…you’re going to have to do a lot of work in order to love Volcano!‘s newest record, Pinata. I don’t say that because it’s not an enjoyable listen, but I say that because it’s up, down, left, right, and any other direction the album wants to go.  That’s actually why it’s such a rewarding bit of pop music; it begs you to follow along, asks you to go with it in order to reap the ultimate reward: pop enlightenment.

“Pinata” opens up the record, using throbbing bass beats just before Aaron jumps in with sort of spoken word vocals.  At times, he’s excitable, matching the precision drumming and reaching higher scales; it’s what you would imagine if you gave LSD laced with amphetamines to Dirty Projectors.  It’s schizophrenic, but planned and organized; you can’t help but bob your head. But, just as you wanted to lump Volcano! in with art-pop acts of similar ilk, they go in other directions, such as the stop start vocal delivery at the beginning of “So Many Lemons.” It’s almost like he’s scat singing, but then he sinks into the groove with the rest of the band, touching on a more polished pop side.  At this point, you might scratch your head a bit, yet you won’t be able to deny the quality (and tightness) of the songwriting.

Honestly, the more I listen to each song, the more I realize that each song can be written about like an album review, as there’s so much texture and creativity put into each track.  “Child Star” for instance begins with an emphatic vocal, matched by choppy guitar and knob twiddling, but it bursts off into this other realm, giving us Aaron’s best vocals on Pinata.  Still, it ends up somewhere entirely different than where you expected it, in the best possible way.  I even thought that “Plate Breaker” might be a more traditional song, nearing the realm of an angular ballad, until the track speeds up around the 40 second mark, gets jittery…and goes to God knows where.  You’ll like it, and you might even love it, but have fun trying to explain your affection to your friends.

Volcano! have one thing going: they don’t sound like anything else out there.  In doing that, they’ve crafted a listen that many people will describe as a “difficult listen,” but those that can stick through the entirety of the record will have something they won’t soon forget.  Songs like “Long Gone” have infectious hooks, that though brief, stick in your head like only the best pop can.  Some of the songs evolve slowly, like “St. Mary of Nazareth,” and appear more delicate; you’ll never know, though, when the band will go in their own direction.  Take some time out of your day, sit down with Pinata, and see if you can unravel the mystery lurking beneath the odd time switches, yelps and, indeed, hooks.  If you make it through, you’ll not only thank me, but you’ll thank the band for being one of the band’s doing something truly original and creative.

[audio:http://austintownhall.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/05/09_Long-Gone.mp3]

Download:Volcano! – Long Gone [MP3]

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