Styles: folk rock, chamber pop, experimental
Others: Jim O'Rourke (acoustic), Will Oldham, Six Organs of Admittance
There are several things in life I think I'm good at, but playing guitar is one of the things I just can't seem to accomplish as well as I'd like. For whatever reason, I can assure you it's not from lack of trying. Therefore, my respect goes out to anyone who can sit down with an acoustic guitar and make beautiful music. To me, the utter simplicity of the singer/songwriter is one of the purest elements music has had going for itself over the past 30 years. Perhaps that's why 2004 was such a big year for folk singers/songwriters (Banhart, Newsom, Panda Bear, etc), or maybe it's that people just have an eternal respect for self-reliable musicians.
Malinche, by the German duo Taunus, is an album that underscores this simplicity of instrumentation and structure. Although simplicity may insinuate an unchallenging listen, that's not to say that it is boring by any means. There are moments of amusement on this recording that keep it from reaching an undesired level of monotony. You'll even find that most of the songs glide along by themselves and demand very little effort to enjoy. A prime example of this is the song "Texel," which is about as innocent sounding of a song as I've heard in quite a while. In the fashion of most folk pop, the guitar melody is gently plucked while a playful drum kit is used to escort it along.
There are a couple other standout tracks I should mention that offer a unique breath of air to an otherwise simple album. "Stoer" is a cloud-soft instrumental of harmonium and vibes (I wish I could describe it better that that, but that's all it is), and on "Kandern," field recordings and stand-up bass make their only appearance. To be quite honest, a lot of the album could have used more of these field recordings and abstract elements to roughen up the smooth edges a bit. They really are the only unique components that set the album apart from the rest of the field. If Taunus further explores these unordinary sounds next time around, I think the results will be more memorable for us. On the Kings of Convenience-esque song, "Wellington," I find myself thankful only one song contains vocals; they aren't needed here.
I think there is a part of all of us that wants to stop what we're doing and go back in time to when things were a bit simpler. Unfortunately, we don't always have the ability to get a second chance at a lot of things. But Malinche hints at these ideas and gives us that sense of nostalgia. It checks all pretension at the door, and we're all the better for it. Let it be known, though, that Malinche will neither amaze nor detach. In the wise words of just about everyone I know, "it is what it is." It sticks to the idea that an acoustic guitar, a little bit of talent, and the ability to express emotion can lead to many great things.