Sub Pop records claimed that most journalists would find it quite difficult to place Death Vessel, as the band is virtually indescribable. However, I like a good challenge, and since I like this record, I have vowed to do it justice.
Joel Thibodeau is the man behind the music, and perhaps the reason people find it so difficult to classify his music is his voice. His voice is what you might call androgynous, standing a thin line between being thrown in one direction or another. Regardless, it is very soothing whilst matching the music that it carries along.
Musically, it isn’t as difficult to put into place, if you were one to do such things. I suppose I am one for such things, and in my decision to this I have come to three various pieces of Joel’s musical recipe: Iron and Wine, Deerhoof and Stephin Merritt (solo).
Death Vessel has previously toured with Iron and Wine, and the touches of folk leanings are immediately noticeable, though not necessarily ripped off. The production has the intimacy of early Sam Beem works, while maintaing its own personality altogether. It’s not as gentle as Iron and Wine, which is where I think the strength lies in this album.
As far as referencing Deerhoof, that lies in the ability for the songs to operate on various tangents, pulling back together uniquely, and never making you feel as if you really strayed very far from the core of the song. The first few songs alone go from folk, to a hint of rockabilly and on to vaudeville. It makes for an interesting listen, yet maintains its own uniqueness.
Now Stephin Merritt references I don’t throw around lightly, but if you’ve ever run across his solo works, and looked at the instrumentation he uses, you will find that Mr. Thibodeau is not far off in his own endeavors. He calls upon many many friends to gather and flesh out his songs, much as Merritt has always done. The best thing about this effort is that while several songs contain multiple instruments outside from the usual fashion, they all seem to find enough room in these songs.
My only draw back with this album is my own inability to connect to the lyrics. They are indeed outside the typical writing style, but at times they resemble Lewis Carroll. Despite my inability to connect, they are still displayed in such a polite manner as to make a listener draw in closely, going deeper into the music as they do so.
When its all said and done, this is a genuinely unique album worthy of multiple l suggest picking it up immediately. And, if you fall in love with it, as I did, you can check out the band on September 12th at Emos Lounge. Tickets are available at TicketWeb or you can click this link.