Shana Falana, Breakfast in Fur & Cycad tout new Team Love compilation CD at BSP in Kingston this Friday
Team Love, a boutique record label, gallery and performance space located on Church Street in New Paltz, has been defined – probably for better and for worse – by its association with “Bright Eyes” songwriter Connor Oberst, who co-founded the formerly New York City-based label with Nate Krenkel in 2003. Oberst, in case you slept through the Aughts, came on like a millennial Dylan at the end of the ‘90s and forged what might be called the New Verbosity: a maximalist, mythic, post-beatnik lyrical grope, equal parts acute narrative detail and cosmic grandiosity sung in a compelling, quavering tenor against an Americana backdrop. Not many people try to be the poet of a new generation and pull it off; Connor Oberst actually kinda did.
My first taste of the Team Love product line – the TLS-01 compilation Music for the Ride Home – is about as diverse as one would expect a 13-act comp to be. While Oberst might be its figurehead, Team Love is hardly a one-horse show. That first compilation includes work from the ubiquitous Jenny Lewis (Rilo Kiley et cetera) and from former Shudder to Think main man Craig Wedren. But the Oberst auspices are conspicuous throughout, in the ecstatic naïveté of the performances and, of course, in the gaping, expressive scope of the lyrics.
Many releases later, Team Love offers up Die Pfalz, TL-55, a new compilation that celebrates the provincial Indie music of the label’s hometown and mine. Die Pfalz is a lovely tribute to the Deus Loci on the part of Team Love, but it is much more than that. Comparing TLS-01 to TL-55, it is the former that sounds all grass-fed and fashioned by rain-rusted Colonial farm implements. Pastoral New Paltz, on the other hand, comes off as a town dominated by electric shimmer and Indie symphonics. In a stark reversal of the Oberst modus, the music here is the spangled thing: stormy, lush and layered, rich in timbre, broad in gesture; and the lyrics for the most part are elliptical and poetically minimal – to the extent that they are audible and intelligible at all, that is.
Appropriately, the dean of the scene, Shana Falana, kicks off Die Pfalz with the previously unreleased song “Heaven” and two exquisite tracks from her EP In the Light. These sound exactly as wonderful here as they do on the EP; and if you have not seen Falana perform live, go now, fool! But for me, the big news is the next three tracks: the first formally released material by New Paltz’s beloved Breakfast in Fur since the six-song bedroom EP that kicked off that band’s journey a couple of years back. And my, how it has grown. Live staple “Setting Stone” is given a disturbed, almost Gothic treatment. The real revelation, however, is “Whisper”: a dreamy, VU/Nico-inspired sonic tableau so delicate in melody and dramatic in texture that it leaves me half-crazed for Breakfast in Fur’s first full-length recording, whenever that mythical beast might eventuate.
The Falana and Breakfast in Fur opening sequence exaggerates the stylistic coherence of the New Paltz scene somewhat, but “Side Two” of the compilation corrects this with the skittering electro beats of Cycad and the ballsy, angular garage rock of the Bloodletters. There is of course much more to be said about the current New Paltz scene, and Team Love makes no definitive claim with this release. It is more a “Here is some stuff we really like” overture, and a quite effective one at that. Here’s hoping for more local love in times ahead!
Three of the four Die Pfalz artists (sans the Bloodletters) will be performing at the compilation release party at the Lounge at Backstage Studio Productions (BSP) in Kingston on Friday, August 24 at 9 p.m. The cover charge is $5, and for an additional $5 you can pick up a discounted copy of the CD. Preorders of the CD can be made at http://team-love.com. A vinyl version is available for $16. For more information on the show, go to www.bsplounge.com.