War Against Sleep Invitation to the Feast

[Fire; 2005]

Styles: soft psych, Hi-fi!
Others: Divine Comedy, Delgados, My Teenage Stride

In this post-Elephant 6 world, the days when it was cool to make recordings at a studio and free of fuzz may seem long removed. The sugary sweet fuzz of Apples in Stereo, and even the high-experiment, low recording quality/low singing ability of Olivia Tremor Control seems to have forever colored our expectations for a pop record. This is understandable, given that what makes a pop underground is how different its music sounds from the glimmering, slick production of the big studio budget. When listening to the new record by songwriter Duncan Fleming's War Against Sleep project, I was struck with this dilemma head-on. After the first few tracks wind through, it's apparent that this is undeniably a psych record. The melodies are there in the folk-rock tradition, but lush instrumentation used, at times, to take the song to new, more experimental places are just as present. Then, somewhere in attempting to ponder the similarities between Fleming's voice and the guy from the Dirty Projectors, it struck me that this record isn't that weird. And, at its best moments, like the rumbling density of "Star/Borderline Personality," and the plaintive, low-register cheekiness of "Teletext Nights," Invitation to the Feast succeeds because it doesn't sound weird.

True enough, Fleming's voice can get somewhat dramatic, but in the best Bowie way, Fleming knows he can sound somewhat over the top, and throws in a goofy lyric like "I don't like your commonplace," to save everyone's sanity. And, above all, the experimentation throughout is really tasteful. No delay pedaled guitar or droning glockenspiel is too over the top. Rather, you can really allow it to wash over. Usually describing something as "nice" is too simple or the easy way out, but, in all honesty, this record brings nice's context back to the days before its overuse.

1. Changing of the Seasons
2. Star/Borderline Personality
3. Damaged Woman
4. Puppies and Kittens
5. I, Shadow
6. Teletext Nights
7. Dolphinland
8. Bedminster Parade
9. Song of Songs
10. May I Harm None
11. Suffering

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