Monday, November 8, 2010

"Ruth" Review

Nana Grizol hold one of those names that are special in the way that you can infer what they will sound like just by saying it aloud. You were thinking an indie-pop group mixed with some folk influence, right? On their sophomore album, "Ruth", they associate these rather diverse genres to create one of the more pleasant albums of the folk and indie scene as of late. They bounce charmingly from smooth acoustic numbers to more intense, hard-hitting songs with ease within the brief thirty-one minutes that make up the album. As with most bands in the genre, they mash miscellaneous instruments and rhythms throughout the record to hover over the stagnancy border that plagues the genre. With the horn section from the prestigious Neutral Milk Hotel and the introspective and intimate lyrics from lead man Theo Hilton it's honestly shocking that the group itself isn't more well known -- though it could be argued that it comes with the genre. Regardless of media prominence, they still play their music and play it with stunning grace.

The thin line between melancholy and hopefulness is carefully trotted upon on the opening track, "Cynicism" on which the overall tone of the album is skillfully abbreviated. The vocalism of Hilton on these short but powerful tracks hold an anxiously timid tone that creates some of the best contrast when compared to when he breaks into all-out shouts on "Arthur Hall". His tonal shifts capture a very obvious influence of that of Jeff Mangum (Neutral Milk Hotel) or even Jeff Buckley. This likeness is shown even stronger on the gorgeous instrumental track "Alice and Gertrude", where the horns swell and flow with a grand piano to create a very classic indie atmosphere. However, it may be all of these familiar indie facets that keep "Ruth" from reaching the grandiose status of those who created said formulas.

It's without a doubt that Nana Grizol's greatest strength is their ability to follow these past influences with such grace, but without enough deviation from the past, it takes a great deal of creativity to make a masterpiece -- but maybe that isn't what Theo Hilton wanted. The lyricism on "Ruth" is like a diary put to music, except with a fair bit of figurative language. The intensely personal feel of "Cynicism" and "Sands" really allows entrance to the thoughts and feelings of one man's travel through what he perceives as life. There are the songs about girls and sunsets, and they all feel entirely genuine when paired with the beautiful musicianship of everyone that backs Hilton. It's an almost overly familiar formula, but is done with such allure that it deserves admiration and a night of your life to lie in bed and enjoy the somber tones of "Ruth".


Oh oh! Banana! said...

Where do you find this stuff?

Nevin Baker said...

There's a download for it if you're interested, but if you're asking how I stumble upon stuff like this, it's mostly Check it out sometime