Tuesday, September 26, 2006

The Places - Songs for Creeps

New feature, folks. Once a month iff will pick a new album we think is especially worth your time and hard-earned doubloons and give it the special showcase treatment. So if you care enough to hear the very best, read on...

"We started out into 'the great starting out' again."

Conventionally this record might be folk, psychadelic, avant-pop - more or less undefinable - but most of all it's got a grip on the sprawling, strange, optimistic, terrifying feel of open-road America, if you squint at it a little bit. If novelist Joy Williams made music it might sound like this - hard realism and unknown spirits mingling in a hazy daydream.

Amy Annelle, sole permanent member of The Places, has been putting out music for a while, but Songs for Creeps is the first to really capture the full scope of off-kilter dislocation and warm uneasiness she's been working towards. It's like a good collection of thematically linked short stories, the narrator chasing time and looking for a sense of place on the road, in tawdry boarding houses and changing seasons, and for those tuned to this wavelength, comforting in its total embrace of dreamy discomfort.

Annelle's trademark found sounds announce the album and float around the margins, adding layers of atmosphere (try headphones, especially on "My Weary Eye"). There's satisfaction here in the literal and the abstract, often in the same song; in clean, ringing twang ("Blessed Speed", a road ode with a vocal hook in the chorus that gives me shakes) and mood pieces thick with echoes and ghosts.

My current favorite track, "The Damn Insane Asylum", is a story of two strangers in New York on a party-refugee date searching for the title institution, but finding nothing but "a planned community from the seventies, and an unclimable wall around where the asylum wreck should be". It's got the appropriately gauzy, surreal feel of late-night, strange-city memories, and blunt, clever lyrics that flow a lot better than it seems they should.

None of this would really work without Annelle's vocals, here stretched in all directions, from the sly, close-in storyteller of "Asylum", to intense bad-dream creep-out ("Miners Lie!"). It's a perfect mix of otherworldy and organic, grounded and elusive.

It's best heard up close and personal, so try to catch The Places on their Fall tour. In the meantime, you can buy Songs for Creeps and start learning these fantastic songs.

MP3: The Places - Miners Lie!
Stream: The Places - Worse & Wise


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narvolicious said...

Thanks for sharing. I've been an addict of The Places' "Autopilot Knows You Best" since I bought it, and now it accompanies me on every flight, because I hate flying, and Amy's penchant for "dreamy discomfort" makes me feel so much better...or accepting, rather, should one of the wings snap off.

"Worse & Wise" is a thing of beauty, forever looped in my ears.

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