Robbie Lee Sleep, Memory

[I And Ear; 2006]

Rating: 2.5/5

Styles: singer-songwriter, indie rock, folk
Others: My Morning Jacket, The Microphones, Badly Drawn Boy

The first song I like on Sleep, Memory is its fifth track, "Pileated", and I don't like it until about two minutes in, when the percussion comes up and the song's fine melody overrides Lee's flat delivery. It's idiosyncrasies like this that hold back Sleep, Memory, an ambitious, three-suite debut record from the NY-based Lee, who runs I And Ear, the label of record here. This is a record stuffed with scattershot ideas and plenty of displays of remarkable versatility (particularly considering that Lee plays everything on the record), but in desperate need of cohesive moments like that second half of "Pileated."

But it could be worse. What do you expect from something called "Interlude #1"? At first, it appears you'll get it — abstract noodling, stabs of organic sound, shades of Gastr del Sol — but then a closing of joyous, breathily-played flute? This leads the way to a second suite that improves upon the first; "Saltsong" makes good use of Lee's gentle falsetto. He's still singing in Nasal Indie Rock Mutter for the verses, but I like that chorus. "Comes Morning" rides some lovely, simply piano playing to a Sophtware Slump-era Grandaddy effect. Unfortunately, we also get overlong, meandering experiments like "Summer Breeze, Bombs Away" that make the impatient listener (and who isn't?) think about skipping to the next song — a death knell for a concept album like Sleep Memory, and a real shame, as around the three-minute mark, the song turns into a (sort of) noisy rocker that sounds like — yep — The Microphones.

Despite its plethora of pretty-good moments, Sleep, Memory just isn't an album that I can imagine throwing on, well, ever. Mix tape source material, sure — but Lee's goal was clearly to create a cohesive piece of art here, and in that regard I wish him best of luck with his next release.

1. CT
2. Sledding Hill
3. Star Star Star
4. Clocked
5. Pileated
6. Anatomy of Melancholia
7. Interlude I
8. Saltsong
9. Comes Morning
10. Summer Breeze, Bombs Away
11. Still on Their Trail
12. Chartered Trips
13. GmbH
14. Barbry Allen
15. Interlude II
16. Hi-Way
17. Whirr
18. Highway Suite, Pt 3
19. My Head Floated
20. I've Got a Secret
21. Hymn

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