Misc. Happiness Is Easy

[Badman; 2009]

Styles: post-rock, indie rock
Others: Daniel Ahearn, Ill Lit, Lanterna

Describing Misc. as a cohesive entity would be misleading. At its core, it's the creative outlet for Badman label founder Dylan Magierek. Inspired by his years working with others on their projects, he uses the handle Misc. as an umbrella under which he can fit a variety of tracks and a rotating cast of contributing talent. The one element that most substantially carries through the collection is an exquisite attention to sculpting sonic space, a trait that belies his recurrent role as producer on many of his label's releases. The result is something that is spare and restrained, yet simultaneously rich and full.

"Temporary Residence" opens the album with a phased and delayed guitar setting a languid pace; bass, minimal drums, and a comparatively soaring guitar line enter progressively, organically, until by the track's end, a surprising level of emotional depth has been achieved. If this leaves one expecting an entire album of instrumental, shoegaze-y post-rock, however, those suspicions will quickly be dashed. In fact, more than half of the tracks feature vocals, provided largely by indie journeyman Daniel Ahearn. Beginning with "In a Studio of Keepsakes," Ahearn's tracks retain some of the atmospheric quality of the instrumentals, but his voice makes them less ambiguous and more grounded. With a timbre close to that of Colin Meloy's, his voice is plaintive without ever becoming too whiny, and Magierek seems to enjoy juxtaposing it with his soaring music. There's a sort of productive tension, a feeling of hopeful yearning competing with realistic resignation.

Mixed in with the other instrumentals, these Magierek/Ahearn collaborations come to dominate one's overall impression of Misc.; I certainly wouldn't count this as a bad thing, but it does mean that, after the opening track, the instrumentals are slightly overshadowed. Another vocal contribution comes on "Korea Vs. Japan," with Laura Nordman-Sabia's smoky voice atop Magierek's hazy guitar and a stripped-down drum machine, suggesting a wholly different direction that Misc. might have followed (or that it might still follow in the future). Unfortunately, this leaves the album feeling less than the sum of its parts, despite the quality of each of the compositions. It's doubtful fans will be left disappointed, but they will likely be left wanting more.

1. Temporary Residence
2. In a Studio of Keepsakes
3. A Little While
4. Such a Fighter
5. I Am Trying to Leave You
6. Wes Anderson
7. Korea Vs. Japan
8. Emmett Till
9. Sea
10. Chocolat Noir

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