The first thing you?ll notice about this Brooklyn-based duo (J. Alexander Farrill and William Timothy Miles Bean)?s debut album is that there are actually eleven tracks on it. And that should be a clue to the disorienting experience you are about to encounter. Opener, ?Lentin? is a homey, folky singalong featuring acoustic guitars, tambourines and Sarah Dziedzic?s lovely violin and vocal backing. ?Mtn. Song (For M-- Howell)? (an apparent tribute to a relative of label owner, Ben Howell, who also provides clarinet on four tracks) is an uptempo stomper with lovely harmonies (think Peter, Paul & Mary on speed), but ?Inward to Lexington? begins an avant garde aboutface into frenetic Residents? or Ceerberus Shoal territory, with fractured, offkey vocals and syncopated beats. Imagine Olivia Tremor Control covering Soft Machine! Sanity is quickly restored on the lovely, acoustic ?Harvest Breed,? with an ever-so-lovely glockenspiel tinkling the night away around a tender piano solo and a shuffling two-step backing.
?Casseopeia? continues my love affair with their glockenspiel (we need more vibes in music today!), with an opening straight off of Lou Reed and Velvet Underground?s ?Sunday Morning.? The song itself is a pleasant little travelogue through the vocalist?s mind as he reminisces about a girlfriend (?). And the extended, jamming coda is nothing short of sublime! Unfortunately, the pair deliberately leave all their personal credits off the record (except oblique references to their pseudonyms, Papa John and Ron da doo Ron), so it?s impossible to tell who does what ? except for the info about all the friends who stopped by to help out at the cabin up in Wilmington, Vermont, where much of the album was recorded?amidst lots of nature?s finest, I?m sure!
There?s an ominous, classical air to the piano solo that is ?Time the Covered Bridge,? and the guys try their electric guitars on for size on the quirky, syncopated ?Dead On Night? and the title track (?Town & Country?), which could best be described as Flaming Lips meet Neutral Milk Hotel ? your best bet is to jump in with the same reckless abandon with which the album was obviously recorded and hope you emerge relatively unscathed! The latter has the craziest, psychotic guitar solo you?re likely to encounter all year (and it?s only a month old!), which segues seamlessly into ?Darker, Darker,? with its Beach Boys-styled harmonies that?ll make you feel warm and fuzzy all over. This one?ll really have you Olivia Tremor Control fans doing cartwheels in the aisles.
?The Torn Byrd? introduces Anthony Papandrea?s mournful violin to the proceedings, which softly yields to a pretty, McCartneyesque melody and ?Evening Prayer? (the eleventh of the ten songs on the album!) wraps everything up with a tender crash landing in a warm and gooey marshmallow pie. So, while ?kitchen sink approach? doesn?t begin to scratch the surface of all the hidden treasures lying in wait beneath this multi-layered onion, fans of everyone from the Elephant Six collective (particularly Olivia Tremor Control and Neutral Milk Hotel), The Residents and Flaming Lips to Simon & Garfunkle, The Beach Boys and The Beatles will find something to their liking in this highly eclectic and most original offering. 8/10 -- Jeff Penczak (13 February, 2007)