As Tall As Lions -- Lafcadio album review

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Ago 17 2007, 18:11

-Asterisk-, June 28th, 2007

What if you woke up one day and felt like listening to your local top 50 on your radio? You'll tune into a few of your favourite radio stations, and all you hear for the next few hours is Natasha Bedingfield, Christina Aguilera, Justin Timberlake, and Kelly Clarkson. Why is it that most musical enthusiest gravitate to the underground scene. I'm not saying that the previosly noted artists don't know how to make music,
but the common people should try and force the underground scene into the picture, because despite most of them do get the warm critical reception, some don't get the exposure and listening time they deserve. What if it is the underground scene that will take over the mainstream scene, would that be strange? And for As Tall As Lions, they need a TON more mainstream popularity than they are given, and have all the material to achieve it.

If you thought that The Mars Volta was over the top, ATAL is possibly ambitious as TMV, if not, more. Coming straight out of Long Island, this solid four piece is
lead by vocalist/guitarist/lyricist Daniel Nigero. Nigero brings the party as his high school friends guitarist Saen Fitzgerald, bassist Julio Tavarez and drummer Cliff Sarcona join the mix. The outcome? One of the most provocative sounds your ears will sustain.
No one has grasped me as much as TMV did, and I was underestimating ATAL's abilities when I first got interested into listening to them. It only took one track, and I was already sunk into deep sleep, dreaming of what the hell Lafcadio meant. Though I was already satisfied, track after track just made my smile bigger, and bigger.

If Lafcadio could be put as one word, I would say paradise. Tranquil, soothing, passionate and enough explosions present to get your foot tapping. Lafcadio is the perfect blend of soft, harmonic vocals played along up-tempo music, down-tempo, or even both. What exactly could you call this sound? Hell, I don't even know. At first it appeared like alternative rock, then jazz fusion and indie, then experimental came into the picture and I just got lost finding it's meaning.

The cd begins quiet, night-silent. You could sense the smoke in the back, and a car in the distance. Before you could put yourself in the setting, Fitzgerald manipulates the mood with an intricate guitar melody, cymbals get picked up and then Tavarez and Sarcona drops from the mist along with Fitzgerald and the song begins. And when it gets to the point when you don't think it's going to get any softer, the band instantly calms, and Nigero enters innocently. ("Break Blossom")

Do you remember the times when you were little, and you were just overjoyed with jubilence, and love? Don't you miss those days? It won't be hard to revisit those times while listening to Lafcadio. With songs of hope, love, joy, beauty and fright, you'll feel the memories rush back. Yet some songs are far more mature than you'd expect, and probably too mature for some younger fans to comprehend, but it's still awesome how they can grasp an adult audience as much as a teen one, because they play with the right ingredients and hooks to appeal to both.

The thing that makes me wonder is how does Nigero have such simple lyrics and standard vocabulary, yet still present himself as lyrically competent? The rhythm is so catchy and unforgettable, you'll be screaming "I watch the changes through your eyes, like a movie of my life," and trying your best to harmonize with the back up vocals of "96 Heartbeats" "Woah-woahoo-woahoo-woah!". Under Nigero's writing, are a more profound meanings just disguised as common words, as we'd might expect.

You'll be jamming with ATAL non-stop and uncontrollably, like some sort of sickness, but it's healthy, so who can complain? Act a fool in your car listening to "A Ghost In Drag", have everyone stare in confusion when they see you dance with your iPod listening to "If I'm Not Out Burning Bridges, I'm Lighting Matches" or annoy the person in the adjacent cubicle from humming "Silhouettes/Silhouetting" obnoxiously loud. Wherever the setting may be, ATAL can fit in perfectly.

Then, there would be softer tracks ("Acrobat", "Why We Cry At Movies", "Blowing Out A Wish", "Goodnight, Noises, Everywhere"), but I would like to refer to them as intermissions. Only because the fast paced tracks out number the peaceful ones, and are great paces changers when you need to catch your breath. But the mixing works great. The whole album flows smoothly like a progressive rock band album, but they're not prog. You can hear the little transitions between songs, even if a upbeat song concludes into a slower one. Though the cd moves along perfectly, it doesn't mean in doesn't contain any flaws. After several spins in your head, you come accustomed to the transitions, which makes playing this album on shuffle a problem. You'll listen to one whole song, and as the song comes near the end, you already know exactly what song is next, your anticipations is building, and then it just shoots right into another song, and you're left disappointed. Though it's not too bad of a feeling, it will occur as a slight rhythmical problem to some participants.

If you are able to snag a japanese copy of the album**, you'll be rewarded greatly with their bonus track "Deep Sleeper". By far one of the most beautiful tracks from them. Journey through the dreams of Nigero as he meets a walrus, a girl with a body of a country side, and hearing flowers speak where the ocean kissed the land. Yes, it's true. If Nigero's sweet vocals don't put you into blissful slumber, the band's back up vocals just might. They'll be parts you'll find yourself surrounded with Nigero's voice echoing, him doing duel vocals with the chorus and a re-run of a previous verse, and while this is going on, the back up vocals are still howling soft joy. Tavarez is a bassist who deserves credit for the lines he makes, and how his subtlety can steal the show too. In "Deep Sleeper", he takes the show away as it ends. Listen deeply in other songs to catch the brilliance of Tavarez's playing, but in Deep Sleeper, it's prominently noticeable.

As beautiful and genius as Lafcadio is, I'm afraid to inform that Lafcadio has no mainstream success that I could find. No music videos or air time. They might not have a massive fan base, but the ones who are fans are very committed. Why hasn't ATAL got any light with their heavy hitting "96 Heartbeats", "If I'm Not Out...", "Ghost In A Drag", while others instantly shone? It still baffles me today. If you ever want to escape from your local top 50, and listen to something extraordinarily pleasing, ATAL won't let you down.


=== Album Notes ===
Title: Lafcadio
Artist: As Tall As Lions
Track Number: 11
Run Time: 43:51
Released: May 8, 2004
Position in Chronology: 1
Preceded By: Blood & Aphorisms
Succeeded By: As Tall As Lions
Misc. Notes: It is uncertain to me if there is an album made solely for the Japanese country, but according to their myspace and purevolume accounts, Deep Sleeper is a Japanese bonus track, so one may infer there is..
Recommended Tracks: The Acrobat, 96 Heartbeats, Why We Cry At Movies
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