Words by Sean Moeller, Illustration by Johnnie Cluney, Sound Engineering by Patrick Stolley and Brad Kopplin
The year of two-thousand and six was one for ambitious recording projects. There was a band from New England named Moes Haven - a goofier take on what Steve Poltz does very well, that recorded 30 minutes of music every day for an entire year, releasing the best of this culling on an album each month. Then there was a gigantic step up with the sage songwriting of the nomadic Paleo, an Illinoisan who enslaved himself to the craft, writing and recording a new song every day for a year, while touring the country over what had to be a thousand and one times.
Finally, we had Brooklyn group Bishop Allen, which operated with a more comfortable timetable, writing and recording an EP's worth of songs for 12 consecutive months. These songs were tenderfoots and tender-hearted, pulled from the incubator and thrown to the world immediately thereafter, four songs still blinking the original wetness from their eyes. They were fresh and yet they were perfected. They were a narration of the year for a band that is Christian Rudder and Justin Rice and a smattering of valuable accomplices.
In January, they were giving a piano -- discovered abandoned on the street -- a new home. They analogized the piano to be a Spanish heart, hoping to learn its songs. February brought a song about vanity that borrows the bridge progression from Boston's masterpiece "More Than A Feeling" and that's exactly what they get from all of these straight-up indie pop sparklers, an offering of emotions that are not broad and threadbare, but salient and specific. More than feelings. More than mere substance. They are individually rich for their own purposes. There will be songs about battleships and pianos, but Rice and Rudder make them memorable and personal. A sinking and defeated ship full of crew, with blood running down from their ears, doesn't smack of incongruous writing or copping that of which is of no pertinence, for its antiquated poetic purposes.
The history they address in song is not histrionic, but able to meld gracefully with their own lives, of which seem to be an unintentional linkage to the life of Rice's character in the black-and-white film "Mutual Appreciation," minus the ass mole viewing. There's a passion for the life of songwriting - the act of the song staging rears its head into numerous numbers. Bishop Allen is a pop band that gratifies by knowing its faculties and matching them with the magical dust that spurs on the evergreen choruses that slap you red in the face like sunny, spring afternoons.
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