CD REVIEW: Boy with a Fish - I Put My Tongue on the Window
By: Neil Thomas (UK)
- INDIE MUSIC DIGEST -
Boy With A Fish
Genre: Alternative Pop Rock
Boy With a Fish hail from the college town of Ithaca in New York state comprising of Jeff Claus (guitar and vocals), Judy Hyman (electric violin and vocals), Rick Hansen (moog, organ, accordion), Jay Olsa (bass), and Ryan Cady (drums). Their 2011 release entitled : “I Put My Tongue on the Window” is on Left Ear Records. It boasts production credits from Grammy award-winning engineer, Will Russell, and three-time Grammy Winner Pat Dillett. Additional musicians drafted in for this album include: Erik Della Penna (guitar and lap steel), Brian Wilson (percussion), Jason Shegogue (guitar and lap steel), Peter Glanville (guitar), Alex Shuhan (French horn), Ryan Zawel (trombone), and Paul Merrill (flugelhorn). With this impressive array of guests – you could be forgiven for expecting something really quite special.
The album in no way disappoints, as it kicks of with “Butter”: a hooky, mid-tempo swirling rock piece that sets the tone for what’s to come. Hypnotic rock grooves and splashes of vibrant color lift and dive from a superbly accomplished opening track augmented with Hyman’s violin and exceptionally stylized tight vocals from Claus. It is effortless and enchanting – a real breath of fresh air to hear music so bewitching. Although this is highly original in form and structure, I’m reminded of R.E.M. straight off the bat. Mainly for it’s stance against the predictable and banal. Track 2 “Wish I had a Plan” launches straight into a twitchy groove with an uncomfortable and deliberately awkward vocal set against Hammond organ and the unquestionable pulsing beat from the rhythm section. Again this is stirring music – with Hyman providing a haunting violin melody in amongst those exceptionally quirky lyrics. The title track is perfectly placed at track Three. “I Put My Tongue on the Window” is gloriously spacious with much more than a nod towards the mighty Talking Heads! I can almost imagine Byrne in his big suit doing a cover of this song and waving his arms around psychotically - it’s hard for me to give a more fitting tribute. The hypnotism in this song is intense, mesmerizing! If you’re not completely sold on this band by the time you hear it then you never will be. Track 4 changes pace brilliantly with a gentle modulated electric guitar and keyboard slowly introducing “You Took Me to The Opera” Again, so much colour, style and substance in this tune its almost like you know that the rest of the CD is going to be inevitably brilliant before even hearing it. Subtle vocal harmonies are well placed and the sustained and echo-drenched lead guitar work is reminiscent of Pink Floyd. The atmosphere is incredible.
“When I Was Eight” returns to the simple, elegant and extremely catchy rhythm guitar cycles that are (by now) firmly integrated into the style of this band – its defining, and proves beyond doubt that originality can still be found and then nurtured into a niche style. The vocal verses are sparse, leaving room for the instruments to play with the space and throw a vibrant rainbow of assorted colour across the canvas. “Water on Mars” plays with some unusual and deliberately awkward melodies to match the imagery, and again, a simple and understated vocal sparse enough for the band to concentrate more on atmosphere and vibe fits perfectly with the catchy lyric “I Don’t care if they find water on Mars” The rest of the songs carry through with no fillers.
I tried hard to find fault with this recording and have to say that there really isn’t anything I could suggest to improve, in either the songwriting or technical ability. Then again – with so many famous production names I’m really not surprised. These songs are world class and they have been brought to life by effortless production. The originality and subtle use of influence has culminated in a distinct, measured and highly appealing style that is no doubt chart-topping material. I believe if the band has the stamina then a long slow (and ultimately successful) climb to stardom awaits. This band should start to understand annuities and get ready for all the money and stardom coming their way since this is right up there with the very best material I've listened to this year. I will definitely be on the look out of future releases.