Eventually you run across something unexpected and bewildering. Such is the case for Avi Buffalo, who have released their self-titled album on Sub Pop. The band originated with a kid in Long Beach named Avi who gathered his friends together, creating one of those albums you vaguely remember hearing about, but are bound to come across again and again in the next few years.
You have to wait almost an entire minute before you get to meet the band on opener “Truth Sets In,” but the warm gang vocals, and the odd harmonic guitar picking create a respectable opener; it’s not entirely overbearing, just an assuming number serving as a brief introduction to the band before they kick your teeth in with elation. And you’ll soon be blown away by “What’s In It For,” the following song. Something about Avi’s falsetto resembles the early Shins recordings (also on Sub Pop), and as you listen, you sort of get the feeling that Avi Buffalo will be one of those albums just like Oh, Inverted World that grows and grows until you have to listen to it once a week for the rest of your life.
You can feel all sorts of influences on this record, which is not a big surprise from a young artist such as Avi. “Five Little Sluts” begins with a bit of homage to Belle and Sebastian before it ambles down its own path. “Jessica” pulls out some vocals reminiscent of David Vandervelde. Even with the allusions to other artists, these songs take on a life all their own, making the entirety of the album familiar, all the while establishing the band with an original sound to which only they can lay claim.
“One Last” mixes up the game, using a female vocal to add a different texture to Avi Buffalo. It’s a playful folk song utilizing a bar-room piano sound to give the song a little pace. It’s not the only number here that shows the range of the group, as the bedroom quiet of “Can’t I Know” adds yet another approach for the group. But, just as you thought they’d get all quiet on you, the band brings out “Remember Last Time.” This pop gem has great vocal performances and clanging guitars that will ring in your ears for hours, and that’s really all you can ask for, right? It might drag on a bit too long in lieu of a slight jam, but you can’t take that away from the opening moments of the track. Then it all closes again with the dual vocal approach of “Where’s Your Dirty Mind.” Gently strummed guitars and piano create the skeletal backbone of this one, but the vocals are the most endearing element of it all. Rebecca Coleman has an angelic voice that will stay with you even when the song (and album) end.
It’s interesting listening to this album. It has flourishes of great beauty, as well as moments of sprawling pop, yet it all sounds like a concisely constructed album geared to let the songwriting speak for itself. While at times Avi Buffalo seem a bit unfocused, as if they’re unsure of their identity, what you do get is a young band who have an extremely bright future ahead of them. If this album is anything, its a breath of fresh air in a lo-fi world, and one that just might make the long haul in your record collection.
Download: Avi Buffalo – What’s In It For [MP3]