Doleful Lions 7

[Parasol; 2008]

Styles: pop, psychedelic
Others: Mercury Rev, Flaming Lips, New Order

Jonathan Scott has been cranking out records for a number of years now with little-to-no fanfare. Some have been really great, overlooked records in the canon of indie pop. His two best couldn’t be more different. In 2000, Scott released Song Cyclops, Vol. 1, a record of super lo-fi acoustic psych-pop. It was like hearing Syd Barrett channeled through Lou Barlow. On the opposite end of the spectrum is 2002’s Out Like a Lamb, a gorgeous full-on studio album of Brian Wilson/Phil Spector-esque pieces fleshed out by lots of synthesizer, strings, timpani, and multi-tracked vocals. I think the reason most people haven’t paid much attention to him is that he’s released, in the years prior and since, a string of mediocre records with a handful of gems scattered amongst them. The problem with Scott is that, aside from brother/collaborator Robert, he has no one else consistently working with him on this stuff, on one to tell him when to stop. Oftentimes, songs that start out promising are upended by extended outros, the introduction of an instrument that texturally doesn’t sound good in the context of a particular song, or any number of other missteps.

The unimaginatively titled 7 is no exception to this pattern. Here Scott returns with yet another cast of supporting musicians and, yet again, manages to mar what would be an otherwise solid album with a few minor troublespots. It opens with “Blazing Sun Rising Over the Mountains of the East,” a nice little instrumental piece that works well because of its brevity. But the first problem arises with the second track, “Magic Without Tears,” which comes out blasting, mixed much louder than the first track. I don’t know how that slipped under the radar, but it makes for an awkward transition to be sure. Meanwhile, “Winfield Walker” is a gorgeous gem of a pop song placed in the middle of the album, but wears out its welcome by returning with a completely unnecessary keyboard outro. Other tracks, such as “Holy Hill” and “White Lotus Day,” sound more like ideas for songs that weren’t fully realized.

Overall, 7 is still a decent album by an unusual songwriter doing it for himself. Jonathan Scott’s songs are always a little too strange to have widespread appeal, and a little too “uncool” for the vast majority of trend-hopping hipsters. While 7 doesn’t do anything to change this or rectify the long-term problems of his Doleful Lions, it will provide fans with more material to sift through and a few more gems to fall from the filter. May his future endeavors bring us a more consistent album on the next go-round.

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