Thursday, April 13, 2006

damn the postal service says i! (the band, not usps)

Alias and Tarsier

Before I start the review: Does Anticon put out hip-hop records anymore? I think their last proper rap record might've been the latest Sole album, other than that, they've given us non-threatening (as if they were ever), psuedo-intellectual hipster-hop. Whatever... most of them have been pretty good, so I guess I can't really complain.

The Postal Service have a lot to answer for. For one thing, their West Coast-album-by-mail relationship, which sired 2003's "Give Up," has inspired a bunch of people to utilize their computers to make irritating paint-by-numbers "techno." Secondly, I suppose without the popularity of said Ben Gibbard-voiced group, we wouldn't have The Foreign Exhange and Alias and Tarsier.

The latter have dropped their debut, "Brookland/Oaklyn," though they have Portishead to thank more than Postal Service (at least outside of collaborating via e-mail).

Oakland resident Alias, who was last heard rhyming on Styrofoam's "Nothing's Lost," goes back to his usual role as Anticon producer and lets the Mia Doi Todd-ish/Brooklynite Tarsier handle most of the vocal duty.

The result is a group of melancholy songs, chillaxed rhythms and the general urge to pretend that it's 1996. Songs like the acoustic guitar-driven "Dr. C" and creepy-opener "Cub" really highlight the album's strong points, starting with a simple arrangement and building up to something bigger.

Still, it's hard to shake the Portishead comparison. Unlike Beth Gibbons and co., Alias and Tarsier lack the panache to really stand out; many of the songs sound the same since they employ similar arranging techniques. By the time you hit the halfway point on "5 Year Eve," the record tends to drag.

Of all the artists that have been riding the Portishead coattails since the late-90's (Morcheeba, Sneaker Pimps, Supreme Beings of Leisure, etc.), Alias and Tarsier has one of the better releases, though I still wish that Alias would make a proper follow-up to "The Other Side of the Looking Glass."


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