Funny how some records take a while to bed in, no matter how much you play them, nor how often people you trust tell you how good they are. I’ve had something of an uncharacteristic writer’s block for the past week or so (hence the shortage of blogs; sorry about that), but when we had another go at the Avi Buffalo album yesterday, a few thoughts crystallised.
I’m not sure why, in spite of fairly regular plays over the past few months, the charms of Avi Buffalo have been only partially apparent to me. Perhaps I got so taken with the penultimate track, “Remember Last Time”, and the way Avi Zahner-Isenberg gutsily channels Nels Cline in his extended solo, that I was distracted from the merits of the other songs. Maybe the band’s affectations – quirky, twee, a little over-wrought, more than a little self-conscious – and their evident regard for Built To Spill made me keep my distance.
It’d be over-optimistic to suggest that those caveats have now completely disappeared: “Summer Cum” still sounds like a formative band trying much too hard, to my ears at least. But this week, plenty of Avi Buffalo’s other caprices have felt much more endearing. The prevailing air of diffidence may well be contrived, but there’s still something pretty engaging about the way a song – and a strong song, at that – like “Truth Sets In” gradually falls into place, is handled so airily, and is then deconstructed in such an artfully dazed fashion.
To many of you who woke up to this one before me, of course, none of this is news. More or less the point of this blog is to provide advance previews of albums, not the odd belated mea culpa about a record that’s already reasonably successful. But there’s still something interesting about how records don’t always impact on you in predictable ways –catchy and melodic ones, like “Avi Buffalo”, can sometimes take a long time to hit home, while obtuse, discreet ones can be unexpectedly direct.
Music journalism, necessarily, doesn’t encourage this sort of candid uncertainty. But, while I’ll try not to make too much of a habit of this – next week: wow, Jimi Hendrix! Who knew? – I do think it can be quite useful to use a blog as a way of plotting evolving critical decisions as well as snap ones. I’ve spent a frankly ridiculous amount of time this year wondering whether or not to write about Teenage Fanclub’s “Shadows”, for instance, working my way from an initial feeling of mild disappointment, through a gradual appreciation of the songs, to an ultimate frustration with a record that seems to me too wan – too depressing, oddly – for my taste. At some point, Teenage Fanclub chose to concentrate on being an indie band rather than a rock band, and it strikes me as rock’s loss, really. Maybe I should’ve documented that more.
But I digress. If you’ve somehow failed to hear Avi Buffalo, and especially if you’ve been increasingly dismayed by the bearded Snow Patrol direction that Band Of Horses insist on – admittedly lucratively – pursuing, a better-late-than-never recommendation for “Avi Buffalo”. And if you like this one, wait ‘til you hear Dylan LeBlanc. I’ll do my best to write about “Paupers Field”, by LeBlanc, a little more promptly, I promise…
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