Ticonderoga Ticonderoga

[54, 40 or Fight!; 2005]

Rating: 3.5/5

Styles: folk rock, experimental-lite, mood music
Others: Gastr Del Sol, David Grubbs, Pavement, Califone, Wilco

This CD sat around my room far too long. I spend all this time reading and downloading like a fiend to find new sounds, and there's a prime suspect collecting dust next to such wastes of plastic as Voices in the Wire and Small Brown Bike. Shame on me. I'm not only doing myself a disservice, but TMT's equally curious, hungry readers. Not to mention the talented three making up Ticonderoga. I'm sorry guys. I should've moved faster on this one. It's a keeper, indeed.

Not classic, but extremely solid to the point of inspiring hacky writers to call it such. Ticonderoga contains some of the most intricate textures and moods I've come across on an otherwise standard indie-rock recording since Emperor X. The songs are restless and tweaked much like a Gastr Del Sol composition, yet they are infinitely more user-friendly. That's not to say that the record's in any way pedestrian. There may be a vague familiarity to the vocals, which on occasion sound like Steve Malkmus (particularly on "Over the Hill"), but mostly there's just that well-worn kind of dejected rocker croon. But I'm confident when I say that this is a minor flaw when set against the strengths of the music.

It has the lulls and pauses of a Grubbs tune, but there's a warmth and emotional heft that's frequently missing from said artist's decidedly more high-brow output. The drums are always very busy when present, a-la Mice Parade, and this gives the songs a good deal of thrust. "Kim and Kelly" is a definite highlight, containing three enticing movements within four and a half minutes of song-time. The first is sparse, with just a simple acoustic guitar progression alongside forlorn vocals. The second works this progression into a nice "The Seasons Reverse" (last Grubbs/O'Rourke reference -- I promise) kind of rhythm with drums and sawing strings. The third is an instrumental section where an electric guitar and bass groove off of each other nicely under a now stomping beat. It's done very seamlessly and doesn't take on an interruptive quality, instead feeling kind of free-floating -- like a pre-storm breeze.

Ticonderoga work sort of like a benign answer to a group like The Dead Science. The music of both groups has such a tactile, often heavily percussive brand of ambience and their take on melancholy is enticingly fresh. But where Dead Science goes dark and heavy, Ticonderoga manages to find an odd sort of levity in their delicate tomes to lady sorrow. I happen to think Red House Painters are an overrated group. And it's mainly because they had the sad-song knack without the ear for balance that prevents the tunes from sinking. In other words, it's hard to feel too maudlin when you're tapping your foot (see: "Arrowhead"). Red House Painters never got this interesting.

So those music lovers out there that have an affinity for dreary-yet-buoyant guitar music will find a lot to revel in here. It won't radically change the way you hear music forever, but it's bound to make you swoon. For rainy days or sunny days when you just wish some clouds would appear, this record's a mood music staple to be. Not something to be left in a dusty pile in the corner of some smelly dude's room.

1. " "
2. Northshore
3. Kim & Kelly
4. Over the Hill
5. Locked in the Back Freezer
6. Drunkmare
7. Arrowhead
8. A Welt
9. All the Proud Dead
10. Two Old Witches
11. High Score