When is music a healing tool? I for one cannot say that I know the process as a musician, but as a music junkie, I think that once you find the one song that brings catharsis for a particular bad memory, you’ve found the chosen one.
Wait, one, one, ONE!
Fuck yeah, Moving Panoramas’ debut album is out! In lieu of a review full of platitudes, I’ll tell you a little story. I was sitting about a week ago at Austin‘s fine eatery, Workhorse Bar, when in comes a mysterious looking fella. Tall, clothed as a sheriff and sporting a ten gallon hat that made him look like Hoot Kloot. This rustler sat by my side and ordered a bottle of rye whiskey (not whisky). He drank a shot, looked at me and tipped his hat. What follows is a semi-accurate transcription of the conversation we had.
Howdy. So, what are you doing there, stranger?
Re-writing my Moving Panoramas review for the eleventh time.
Who are they?
Local band from the fine city of Austin. They play panoramagaze, which is a style of dream pop that grabs equal parts of Galaxie 500, Yo La Tengo and probably Madonna. The promo I totally obtained legally calls them “fox gaze” and “gazey”, genres I’m totally down with. Also, Louie Lino from Nada Surf was behind the mixer so that gives it the approval in my book.
I have no idea what you just said, partner.
That makes two of us. Let me put it like this: Country with distant vocals and a George Strait dedication to ballads. If all your exes lived in Texas and you moved to Tennessee, you’d still hear their voices soothing you like Nocatula once did to Conestoga.
Ah. So what’s the album called?
That’d be a lonely number.
Maybe, but I say one it’s the only number. Some say two are better than one, I say one is the only one.
That makes no sense.
Gotcha, partner. So I reckon you are a fan?
Well, yes. It’s a long tale and since you’ve ordered a round of fine local ale, I’ll tell y’all about it. I’ve been a fan of Moving Panoramas from day one. I know their lead singer thanks to her previous collaborations with Matt Pond PA and The Wooden Birds, then I heard her fantastic solo album, Harmony, and knew something great was there, ready to burst through the walls. That was confirmed during last year’s SXSW, I saw them live and fell in love with their stuff, which included a re-working of ‘Harmony’ and a rather nifty cover of an Elvis Presley song. Also I technically had the first interview with them, but that’s up for debate and is only relevant to this conversation to appease my ego.
Then they sent the album with two different tracklistings. It was tinkered with by the great Louie Lino (of Nada Surf fame) and I thought it captured their essence just right. One felt like the musical equivalent of a cherished Polaroid: vibrant colors, impossible to reproduce and changed irreversibly by time.
If you like them so much, how come it took you eleven tries to write a review?
Because although I can’t find any faults with One, it feels like I’m reading someone else’s diary. The musical style chosen by Moving Panoramas is the perfect one for the topics they’ve chosen and the inherent sadness, bleeding from emotional wounds, are soothed by the vocal harmonies and the thick as incense atmosphere that emanates from all tracks.
Sorry there, partner, could you be more hyperbolic?
Right: Rozie Castoe‘s decisively strong bass doesn’t need to be thumping, it gives the songs a strong grasp on earth while the three vocal harmonies pull the listener into the sky. There, in that blue skies painted mauve and pink by the Texas sunset, Karen Skloss goes for the “slow but faster” approach to drumming, raining down solid beats that keeps the songs jaunty. Over yonder, Leslie Sisson‘s vocals travel with the wind, blowing the leaves of Autumn with a whisper that mixes longing and anger so well you can’t tell them apart. Oh, and the guitar work: subtle and with a punch.
I see. Recommend me a few tracks, partner.
‘Word’ and ‘Tonight’ are perfect examples of this. Both songs have a strong pop sensibilities, a pleasing, soothing face and a bittersweet essence that makes them standout tracks. The bass in ‘Word’ speaks so loud, accentuating the desperation in the vocals that scream in the quietest whisper. ‘Tonight’ tells a story we all have been through, but rarely admit we have. It feels like post-punk without the incessant punishing of snares and ride cymbals. ‘Cool’ has possibly some of my favorite musical composition: the sweetness of vocals, a buzzing synth droning and “slow but fast” musical interludes that make it a prime example of “pop done right”, a strange place where hooks and art mix and blur the line.
So, what is the main conflict you’ve had with this review? Sounds like y’all love the album!
‘Harmony’. I can’t do the song justice in this review. I loved the original version in Leslie Sisson‘s solo album but the Moving Panoramas version is a million times rawer, which makes it even better than the real thing. A once personal letter now is a tribute encompassing so many emotions I can’t find the right word to describe the track. I once had a conversation with Ms. Sisson in this here fine bar but it’s off the record.
Go on, tell me something about this conversation.
It involved Die Hard, Alice in Chains‘ ‘Rooster’ and tattoos. It’s off the record, though.
Got you, partner. Look, I gotta go, I’m running out of change…
Thanks for listening. I know there’s a lot of things that if you could, you’d rearrange.
He stands up and leaves a hefty tip at the bar. I think a sip of my pale ale and look at the notes of the review and start re-writing again. I do so because only fools rush in….
Words: Sam J. Valdés López.