Smile Politely

Album Review: The Curses’ Old Magazines

Before the editors gave me The Curses‘ new CD, I had never heard of the band. I’m willing to blame the time I spent away from C-U for this, but I feel bad for not seeing these talented musicians play since I have returned.

Their new album, Old Magazines, is well done. The band displays their musicianship well, mining jazz and blues on the first half and kicking out swinging jams on the second. The album effectively displays their skills, but I don’t think it does a good enough job of properly portraying the full extent of their musicianship.

It seems like everyone on the album is good for at least two instruments, eight if your name is David Tcheng. The arrangements on the album are well thought out and use the vast instrumentation to its advantage, but the whole time I listened to this album, I couldn’t help thinking that this is a band that would be best heard live.

The album is co-produced by the band and Aaron McCallister, and the combination works. But at times it sounds a bit too clean.

Lead singer Benjamin Spoden has a Waitsian growl to his voice that does not appear enough on this album. He lets it loose on a few songs, “Vroom Ditty Doom” and “Blow Your Speakers” especially, but at times he coos more than snarls. I could go for much more, but I’d be willing to guess he hasn’t had as much whiskey as Tom Waits has, so he can have some more time.

“Blow Your Speakers” – featuring that wonderful growl – is probably my favorite song on the album. The slide guitar and marimba match everything else that is going on very well and give the song a great brooding feeling.

The album’s first song, “Hold On,” and their cover of the Kinks “Sunny Afternoon” also stood out to me as fantastic songs. The rest of the album played well, especially with the switch from jazz/blues to swinging pop. The only song that didn’t catch on with me was “Vroom Ditty Doom.” I loved the rough vocals, but I just didn’t connect with the storyline about mowing the lawn.

Overall, Old Magazines is a good album and worth discovering for yourself. But, I would recommend picking up the album at a live performance. Seeing The Curses live just seems like the right way to hear their music – I know I’ll be finding a concert of their soon.

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