One of Saddle Creek’s newer investments, Son, Ambulance, has released a record that’s like buttered toast: plain, but still mildly satisfying. Key is a record of mostly piano, layered vocal and instrumental tracks, and simple vocals courtesy of singer/songwriter Joe Knapp.
Tracks like “Billy Budd” are reminiscent of Cursive and hint at the new conglomerate of watered down folk and emotional rock, while tracks like “Chlorophyll” are layered with shadowy guitar and echoing lyrics, with a touch of Bright Eyes or Rufus Wainwright. “Sex in C Minor” is an intense seven-minute piano track á la Tori Amos. However, there’s no good reason this track is seven minutes long – what was done in seven could have been over in three. The song just keeps repeating and doesn’t go anywhere. This happens again with “Case of You/ Wrinkle Wrinkle.” It’s not great. It’s good, above average. But it lacks the dynamism and spark that gives a song a reason to be almost nine minutes long. Everything sounds fine, but there’s no fury, no wonderment, no arousal! Nada!
“Glitter Angel” sounds promising with electrified bongos in the beginning, but quickly turns into an odd robotic orchestration whose sound is like looking at a blurry photo. I’ll be the first to admit that blurry photos can be cool, but it’s usually just not what you were going for.
Now I’m always open to new music, but listening to this disc really just made me want to listen to its kin – Jeff Buckley, Sam Beam, Elvis Costello…perhaps once Joe nails that certain je ne se quois, we can expect a beefier record in the future. Until then, I want fire, feeling, and madness! I’ll be waiting, Joe.
Victory at Sea will be visiting Denver during their six week tour promoting their latest release (early October), Memories Fade, along with Son, Ambulance who both play Wednesday, November 17 at Hi-Dive with Denver’s Nightengale.