Sunday, November 9, 2014

Rivergazer's "Random Nostalgia" A Lush Remedy for Wayne Coyne's Mid-Life Crisis

Photo by Heather Craig

Right after I viewed The Flaming Lips doing their take on the Beatles "A Day In The Life" on Conan along with Miley Cyrus I got into a depressive funk. I have been a Flaming Lips fan over the years and have even found myself defending Cyrus on occasion but the Conan performance felt like a musically sordid affair. What did I just witness? It kind of felt like performance art meets corporate sell out. Or maybe it was Wayne Coyne's mid-life crisis wrapped in foil? Maybe I was being too hard on it. It is just good clean fun after all. One thing is for sure. It felt cheap and easy. Take an iconic piece of music and twist it up. The interpretation, the concept felt like it took 15 minutes to come up with after smoking copious amounts of pop. Nothing against pot mind you. In the end, Wayne and Miley effectively sucked all the somber emotion out of an epic piece of music and replaced it with spectacle and fluff.

Yesterday I finally got to hear Rivergazer's debut LP "Random Nostalgia" and now I feel much better. I love to hear music cold and this was the case with Rivergazer. Part way through I reveled in how they kind of sounded like Porches not even realizing that this wonderful outfit started as Porches guitarist Kevin Farrant's recording project. The songs are are so well crafted. From the first track Lonely to the last Savannah, Farrant stirs in a lot of thoroughly engaging stuff in the mix. Some of the songs are hinged on thick acoustic guitar often time played with chunky strums and some muted palmed accents. Others on somber acoustic piano like Plastic T-Shirt. Whatever the vehicle used to carry the the message, it is the melodies both vocally and musically that grab you by the shirt collar and pull you in for the musical embrace. The lush dream theater quality of Under My Skin entices as much for the notes that hang in the air as the lilting poise of the chord progressions. Elegantly rendered, beautifully seductive and a little bit Beatle-esque. Listen to Pour Me 5 times in a row and you will discover new lovely touches each and every time. This track reminded me the most of Farrant's connection to Porches. Oh Well feels dour and cinematic in scope and begs to be in a David Fincher movie. Whimper feels playful with a sardonic bite. The title track Random Nostalgia might be the heart of the album. It feels like an askew blend of all the musical tones of the other tracks. It is cool and collected alt folk, hooky and wonderfully weird too.

Random Nostalgia is a treasure trove of songs. In a strange way they feel small but big at the same time. The songs are so fucking brilliant in their earnest intimacy. In the style there is so much substance. As I listened there were flourishes of sound that made me flash on artists like Elliot Smith, Father John Misty, Bowie, Radiohead, Kurt Vile and Porches. As a debut album (as any album) Random Nostalgia is a stunner and the perfect remedy for Wayne Coyne's mid-life crisis.
Robb Donker

At the time of this blog post you can still stream the album on IMPOSE via Father/Daughter Records

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