Beautiful yes – Yusuf Azak’s voice seems to effortlessly intertwine with the simple acoustic guitar or sometimes piano-led melody. Arty yes – this is expressionistic, I assume, I think it must be ’cause I don’t totally get it and I don’t imagine it hitting the top 40, but it is easily accessible, as it has no rough edges production-wise, no repetitive techno beat, and no punk-like angst to annoy your neighbours when played loud on your stereo, or laptop (the way music was designed to be heard).
First track ‘Lay Me Down,’ demonstrates to us everything at work. Sparse and deliberate guitar plucks build and build to nothing as the track ends before the anticipated flourish, in a satisfying TV On The Radio type way, and contrast the sound of the vocals, an interesting stand-out feature when I listen to this record. They have been recorded to highlight a breathier, distant tone, almost like a harsh whisper, and on this track, the husky growls, or ‘singing’ – but I don’t know if it is technically singing on this track as pitch, tone and tempo don’t change – and unlike most tracks, almost no lyrics are discernible. One may hear “down”, and “lay” and “me” in there somewhere, but I wouldn’t like to bet on it. But it is incredibly pleasing, especially when the vocals are layered to harmonize with each other, a really effective staple of this record, and that really helps connote the dreamy, Beatle-esque ‘Norwegian Wood’ sound throughout the record. There is deceptively lots going on.
The piano-run title track is another stand-out. Synthy strings compliment the distant and echoey piano chords that both give way to a clawing ‘Psycho’-type violin trill, which adds up to a very uneasy listening experience when coupled with the spine-tingling vocals that plead “Do you hear me now?” And while it made me uneasy, it wasn’t horrible. I found myself listening to this track over and over as it is so reminiscent of My Bloody Valentine, Tess Brunet and Mercury Rev. And while being reminiscent of the 90s college-rock sound, it doesn’t rip off what has come from bands before, or even borrow from them, it builds on the strange and wonderful through the musical looking glass style so many find so much pleasure in.
Go Native makes for an interesting take on the singer/songwriter record, which can often either leave one comatose, due to its Alanis Morisette/Regina Spektor single track, repetitive, often dirgey whine, or leave one with diabetes, due to its Dido-type saccharin. My only concern is not being able to identify what mood I would have to be in to come home and listen to this record. Maybe I wouldn’t, but it was worth it the first time around.