Surrogate - "Love Is For The Rich" Sept 27, 2007 16:34:42 GMT -5
Post by Rick Henry on Sept 27, 2007 16:34:42 GMT -5
As usual I'm always looking to discover something or someone new or unique in music.
I get bored with what we find in today's Billboard Top Twenty Albums... most of it so unoriginal and following in the trends that the record companies say is making the money. A lot of what you find at the top of the charts is about personalities or who can cause the biggest media hype to buy themselves record sales. And than there's way too many artists from the 70's and 80's releasing albums full of remakes from the 70's and 80's... hoping to make a buck from their lack of creativity or originality... no thank you.
Although there are some (but seems like fewer and fewer these days) pretty good releases that make the top of the charts like Coldplay, KT Tunstall, him and Casting Crowns.. and currently at #1 is Reba McEntire's new albnum which isn't all that bad.
Though to my ears most of the best albums don't ever make the charts. Why would that be? Could be these artists focus more on the music and less on the hype. I've always been one for sincerity in music. Never been into the sensationalism part of it all... I guess that's why I have always loved Carpenters so much and never cared for Madonna.
That brings us to my most recent find... sorry for the rant and rave that lead up to this... but hey I guess that's how I got the name "Rick the Shark"... Surrogate is a group that will most likely never go any further than one or two albums... although with their debut album called "Love Is For The Rich" they have released a beautiful work.
Surrogate is a duo from Chico, California who's music is filled with richly textured and melodious vocal harmonies. Their sound is acoustic pop with a slight feel for modern day folk... reminiscent of Cat Power (another one who will never make the top of the charts... but capitalizes on artistry over trendiness).
What I like most about Surrogate's album is that it was all recorded in band member Chris Keene's bedroom... which adds to that down to earth and easy going "in your lap" spirit. Simon and Garfunkel come to mind when I first heard the album... even bits of it reminded me of Carpenters.... but only bits... Surrogate is what the kids nowadays call "chill" music.
Here's a few bios on them...
Northern California's Surrogate is the brainchild of multi-instrumentalists Chris Keene and Jordan Mallory. Their debut album, "Love Is For The Rich," boasts smooth, heartfelt melodies on a lush bed of minimalist indie-pop. For fans of Sun Kil Moon, Red House Painters, and Pinback. Look for the debut album in stores August 28, 2007.
Jordan Mallory: Drums and Percussion
Chris Keene: Vocals, Guitar, Bass, Piano, Keyboard, Accordion, Banjo, Xylophone, Percussion and Programming
Reading band bios is typically an exercise in cynicism. The bio says one thing, but the music usually says another; average bands are made to sound exceptional by way of semi-truths and exaggerated claims.
In the case of Surrogate and their debut full-length, Love is the For the Rich, such hyperbole is not necessary. When Surrogate—which includes vocalist/multi-instrumentalist Chris Keene and drummer Jordan Mallory—says their record was "self-produced" they don't mean that they sat in some posh professional studio and directed a bunch of hired engineers on how they wanted things to sound. It means that Love is For the Rich was recorded entirely in Keene's bedroom and a friend's lumber-filled warehouse in their hometown of Chico, CA.
Likewise, when primary songwriter Keene lists off his roster of musical influences or—Pedro the Lion, Neutral Milk Hotel, America, Starflyer 59—he's not just trying to sound hip and eclectic. From the melodic minimalism of Pedro, to the vintage folk pop of America, Love is For the Rich actually brings to mind those bands. In fact, Jason Martin of Starflyer fame handled mixing duties on the record, helping maintain Surrogate's decidedly mid-fi sonic approach. "The record definitely doesn't have much of a slick sound. Its not super polished or anything," says Keene. "But that was kind of the point, that's really what I'm into. I like records that stand on the songs themselves rather than the production of the songs."
For Surrogate, this idea of the song being the single most important thing—more important than the production, more important than the image, more important than even the band itself— is definitely no exaggeration. It can be traced back to the band's somewhat accidental origins. It was late 2005 when Keene found himself bandless, off the road for the first time in years, and ready for a musical change of pace. Dissatisfied with what he calls the "wall of sound, constantly overdriven" style of guitar rock, Keene began writing songs in an altogether different vein. And although these songs would eventually become Love is For the Rich, initially, Keene had distinctly lower expectations. "I thought that maybe it'd be fun to play around town," he remembers, "but that was basically the extent of it."
However, after playing the songs for Mallory, the two decided to start practicing and recording the songs together. These demos soon found their way to Tooth & Nail A&R man Jonathan Dunn, who signed the band and encouraged Keene to continue tracking the record himself. "Tooth & Nail kind of had that idea from the beginning because they liked the sloppy style of the demos," says Keene. "It was really the first time I'd ever recorded anything. But I think it worked out pretty well, and I'm happy with that decision."
From the plaintive, acoustic opener "Shift the Blame," to the anthemic and danceable "15," Love is For the Rich draws from a broad musical palette. Lyrically, however, Keene brings the album together with an unexpected thematic constant: satire. "It's a lot of satirical bad advice," says Keene of the albums lyrics. "I personally hate when people tell me what to do, so these lyrics come from the fact that I learn very much by experiencing things and seeing the consequences firsthand rather than taking people's advice. There's a lot of situational story telling on the record, leaving people to figure out their own stance on the situation, rather than being super blunt about what I'm trying to say."
On "Easy" a midtempo rocker that finds Keene singing "Easy come, easy go/You know it doesn't make a difference in the long run," the story is about a boy, who upon inheriting a vast sum of money from someone he hardly even knows, justifies blowing it all by convincing himself that he didn't really earn it. For Keene, this tale has personal significance. "It's sort of self reflection, like 'what am I doing with my life?' I've been given some amazing opportunities and I'm not really using them to their full potential," says Keene, ending this bio with its first, and only, untruth.
Call it folk-rock. Call it indie-pop. Call it two former members of Number One Gun coming out of Northern Cali with a decidedly different flavor than anything else on Tooth & Nail's roster. Bravo to the label for branching out and attempting to tap into music beyond their stigma.
Surrogate is, even in its established sound, quite varied. The album opener "Shift the Blame" sets the listener's palette to the softer side of melody, with its simple acoustic progression and echoed vocals. The song never really fills up, even when sustained piano, background cymbal taps, and a harmonizing voice enter in almost at the end. This type of minimalism isn't completely indicative of the rest of the album, though. "Photographic Memory" skirts the edge of a soft alt-rock tone, while "Papertrail" ditches the acoustic foundation altogether, giving way to what starts as a typical indie-rock song while the fuller moments drain into contrasting verses which make the tune as a whole feel delightfully conflicted. "Problem Solving" sounds very Eisley-influenced, "15" belongs on a Shins album, and "Fence" ranks up there with the best sway-rhythm piano-centric contemplation pieces. Musically the slow tempo, indie-folk foundation is never too far departed from, although it is augmented to a pleasant degree most of the time.
Fans of the hyphenated genres mentioned will find something to like about Love is For the Rich. Be prepared for a contemplative listen, with a deceptively empty sound- each subsequent play revealing a little more of the subtlety. Lyrically, most of the songs are stories or commentaries on relationship, embarrassment, indecision, and patience… mostly without metaphor or any spiritual profundity to elevate it above other bands of a similar breed. The end result of the music and lyric in aggregate is that you'll end up asking yourself if you've heard this album before. There's room to grow for Surrogate and they've got the beginnings of something great here.
CLICK HERE for Surrogate's "Love Is For The Rich"
Surrogate's Web Site: