Chad VanGaalen Infiniheart

[Sub Pop; 2005]

Rating: 3.5/5

Styles: one-man band glitch folk, psych pop
Others: Bright Eyes, Badly Drawn Boy, Sufjan Stevens

Calgary songwriter and visual artist Chad VanGaalen is of the independent, "I don't need anyone but myself to record an entire album" school of thought. This, of course, is an admirable categorization. With a frail voice that quavers from time to time -- sounding quick flashes of Neil Young at its best and Conor Oberst at its worst -- VanGaalen takes a sometimes gruesome, sometimes compassionate approach to dealing with heartache and the like.

VanGaalen, a multi-instrumentalist in the truest sense of the phrase, throws everything in the mix as far as instruments go. He shies away from nothing. We have gnarled crunchy guitars and we have plucked acoustic guitars; we have casual clean drumming and intense electronic percussion; homemade horns and strings and playful child-like keys. VanGaalen proves there is no limit to what can be thrown into his songs, and he has no hesitation in doing so. Though a variety of instruments are being used (and the instrument selection varies from track to track), the collection retains a cohesive feel. No songs are out of place in the sequence.

With 16 thoroughly-developed tracks, clocking in at a little under an hour, Infiniheart is a tedious listen. Though its moments of faltering are few, it's a lot to digest. And for all the instrumental glory (much of the album was actually originally shared and passed around as an instrumental project), VanGaalen's voice isn't the most captivating. But what he lacks in vocal inflection and ability, he more than makes up for in musical elements -- the wavering, uncertain horn on "1000 Pound Eyelids," for example. It's a strong debut by an artist who has potential coming out of his kazoo. (Look for the kazoo to be played on the next album.)

1. Clinically Dead
2. After the Afterlife
3. Kill Me In My Sleep
4. J.C.'s Head On the Cross
5. Somewhere I Know There Is Nothing
6. Blood Machine
7. Echo Train
8. Build a Home Like a Bee
9. I Miss You Like I Miss You
10. Red Blood
11. 1000 Pound Eyelids
12. The Warp Zone/Hidden Bridge
13. Chronograph #1
14. Sunshine Snare Hits
15. Liquid + Light
16. Traffic

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