Friday, May 22, 2009

Telekinesis -- Telekinesis!

Telekinesis -- Telekinesis! (Merge)

This is one of best indie pop albums to come down the pike in a long time. Moreover, it’s one of the poppiest indie pop albums to come down the pike in a long time.

The man behind Telekinesis is Michael Benjamin Lerner, a one-man band who is ably guided by producer Chris Walla of Death Cab For Cutie. This album sounds like a midpoint between Elliot Smith and Emitt Rhodes, which in an indicator of how strong Lerner’s melodies are.

I also think, though this is purely speculation, that Lerner is more mentally stable than Smith and Rhodes, though basing that on an album is pretty ridiculous. But I’m not a health professional. I’m a part-time music critic -- I can speculate to my heart’s content.

Now my speculation may be undermined by “Imaginary Friends”. The opening lines are humorous and sad at the same time: “When I was young I had imaginary friend/and boy did we have fun/one day my mother told me they were just pretend/and then I had no one.” Lerner sings this over an inviting bed of strummed guitars (one artist who comes to mind as a point of comparison is Mull Historical Society). The verses alone are catchy, but there’s a nice counterpoint lead guitar hook and a telling middle eight: “Look at me, I’m getting older/look at me I know.”

Lerner has mastered a big pop sound, as some of the best tracks on this album burst with life and momentum. Combined with Walla’s production, which is spacious and full, this leads to irresistible tracks like “Coast of Carolina”. The song is grounded in a simple guitar riff that Matthew Sweet would like to borrow, which gives way to a soaring chorus.

These sounds wouldn’t mean much if Lerner didn’t have oodles of great melodies to work with. This is illustrated by affecting songs like “I Saw Lightning”. This is a quiet, intimate number that is the primary basis for the Elliot Smith comparison I made. But Lerner has an extra sweetness that I don’t find with Smith. Here, a rainstorm isn’t a metaphor, instead the rain is an excuse to “sit inside our house and unplug all our phones” and get really intimate.

Lerner also scores with the cool pop of “Great Lakes”. This song sounds like a collaboration between Elliot Smith and Lindsey Buckingham or some other denizen of ‘70s AM radio. The melody is so smooth and there is another great lead guitar driven interlude that really resonates.

I can’t speak highly enough of this terrific album. Lerner is a great talent and he’s found the right collaborator in Walla. This is a team that needs to stay together to see what further magic it can produce.

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