Windmill Puddle City Racing Lights

[Friendly Fire; 2008]

Styles: indie pop, psychedelic rock, chamber pop
Others: Mercury Rev, Built To Spill, Danielson

Stepping into some pretty presumptively epic shoes, Windmill's debut Puddle City Racing Lights is a sweeping, alternatively joyous, and melancholy affair that will have you wondering if this is the second coming of Mercury Rev. Like Rev's Jonathan Donahue, Windmill is dominated by a singular artistic force, in this case a young Brit named Thomas Dillon. If his penchant for booming drums and studio manipulation weren't enough to put him in league with Rev, his yearning squeak of a voice would instantly have listeners thinking of Donahue, Wayne Coyne, Daniel Smith, and other thin, high-pitched male singers who use any perceived vocal limitations to their advantage in wielding their fractured pop songcraft.

As a first step into the public eye, Puddle City Racing Lights is sure to gain Dillon a decent following. The first half is dominated by more boisterous efforts like "Tokyo Moon," "Fluorescent Lights," and "Plastic Pre-flight Seats," but even these tracks are anchored with a certain solemn weightiness that's rooted in the omnipresence of piano. This is obviously Dillon's instrument of choice, and for all the production embellishments, songs often feature significant passages that are piano and vocals only; just listen to "Replace Me" for a good taste of this. These moments are truly beautiful, and reveal the raw talent at work here. It's not that the more heavily produced moments mar the songs in any way; it's just harder to distinguish them from the similarly great music that preceded them.

One can sense that there is something more wholly original waiting to emerge from Dillon — something that will truly put him into the same category as Coyne or Donahue. For now, Puddle City Racing Lights is sure to ignite interest and please those who hear it. With any luck, success will give Dillon the courage necessary to push his songwriting even further for the sophomore effort.

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