[Two Sheds Music, 2011]
Listening to Virginia Plane’s self-titled debut sounds about like what you would expect it to. This quartet, fronted by singer-songwriter Mary O. Harrison, grouped seven folk pop songs together that sound like they came straight out of the Gin Blossoms/Six Pence None the Richer era of the ’90s except they’re not quite so well put together and delivered with half the emotional conviction and energy. Mix in a female punk whine and you pretty much have Virginia Plane. The release is quaint and cute, but it lacks creativity and progression. The spirit of folk music usually leans toward nostalgic and away from creativity (with the exception of some wonderful folk stand-outs), but this record does no leaning — it’s just sort of there. There’s not much to hate about it but there’s not much that jumps out and grabs your admiration either.
My biggest issue with Virginia Plane is that it lacks direction. Harrison’s vocals come out more like a conversation with herself than a song. Most of the tracks sound like a one-take performance of a diary entry sung over genre typical music, and though, at times, this aspect lends a pleasant, homey feeling to the songs, the album relies too heavily on this vibe. Any unique lyrical and musical ideas worth mentioning get watered down by an onslaught of average talk and sound. It seems Harrison has some interesting things to say on the record, but it’s difficult to pick them out. There’s so much musical clutter here; if the songs were more focused and refined it would have allowed her ideas the space they needed to really stand out.
One of my pet peeves with indie folk bands is when they draw an instrument into their writing and expect the instrument itself to make the song sound creative rather than the parts they write on it. Anyone can add a banjo. But if you aren’t going to play something worth listening to, I don’t want to hear it. Virginia Plane is a perfect example of this. The band attempts to blend in some cool, folky parts to their performance, but fail to use them in a way that adds dimension to the overall sound. Just as throwing more paint on a canvas doesn’t add quality to a painting, so adding extra layers of sound doesn’t make the music any more dynamic if they are not placed with precision and purpose.
Overall, the production on Virginia Plane is solid and the band seems to know where they sit genre-wise. There are some moments where the songwriting manages to stand out and the band proves they have some promise. With a little more time and growth moving forward Virginia Plane has the potential to do well as a folk band if they can find that pocket where they’re true to themselves but can also stand out from the throng of today’s oversaturated music scene.
Virginia Plane will celebrate the release of their debut, this Friday, June 24, at the Highland Inn Ballroom. Supporting them will be Os Ossos. Doors open at 9pm. $5 gets you in.
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The mood of Kinisi’s new EP is based around the energy, haze and atmosphere of the islands. After releasing a promising full-length album titled Sun Battle Soul, Speros Kokenes, the creator behind Kinisi, spent a week in the Caribbean soaking in the sun and the vibes. Islands is Kokenes’ response to the adventures he encountered, and his attempt to collect the spirit of the islands in a net of sound.
The idea behind the EP is spot on. Following the lead of artists such as fellow Georgian Washed Out and San Francisco’s Tycho, Kinisi develops a saturated, dreamy electro mood that is more ethereal then tangible. The samples and instrumentation are indefinite and glitchy, seeming to weave in and out of tempo with the songs. The percussion consists more of pops and clicks then conventional western kick and snare. The vocals are lazy and repetitive, sounding closer to the occasional wave collapsing on a beach then a hook. If you’ve ever lost all perspective and your sense of time and urgency while basking in the sun by the ocean, you can understand what Kinisi was going for (and for the most part gets) on Islands.
There are a few gaps here, however, the foremost being that the production is slightly cold and static. The majority of tones and samples sound too processed and computer generated. Kinisi hints at delays and reverbed white noise in a few parts of the EP, but doesn’t ever cross over into a fully liquid, natural experience. Considering the organic concept behind Islands, this is a crucial error in the effort. As listeners, we can fill in the gaps left by Kinisi and enjoy his work, but too often the music forces our imagination to do the heavy lifting. If Kinisi had been able to bring us there effortlessly, sweeping us away into his experience in the Caribbean without us even knowing it, it would have been a good deal greater of an artistic achievement.
Still, Islands is a solid effort and worth checking out, even if it does have some gaps in it. Kinisi is definitely an artist to watch as he develops and finds new ways to fully implement his already progressive concepts into the art he creates.