Clock Hands Strangle | Redshift/Blueshift (Team Grizzly)

cd_clockhands.jpgEven in its sparsest moments, when there’s just a voice and a guitar, the rhythm is evident.







"Oh great," I thought after hearing the first minute of Redshift/Blueshift. "A band that sounds like Modest Mouse playing ballads." At about two minutes in, an upbeat horn break gave me hope, but it just gave way to more of the first minute, with harmonies that sound like Isaac Brock was making a guest appearance.

As the first track faded out, hand percussion instruments faded in. Eventually, they made an odd rhythm. It was earthy but robotic. By that time, the second song had started, with simple folk-style guitar strums and hammer-ons underscoring sparse vocals that sounded fractured, but ultimately precious. Sort of like the best moments of early Built to Spill.

The Doug Martsch-style vocals continued. Of course, Clock Hands Strangle singer Todd Portnowitz can’t help it that he has the same nasally singing voice, and he’s probably heard the comparison before. Several tracks on the album have him stretching into Conor Oberst and Ben Kweller territory, but never enough to draw a direct parallel.

All of the singers Portnowitz sounds like have an underlying folkiness to them. It’s that quasi-Americana bend that the rest of Clock Hands Strangle pick up on. While the first track sounds more like alt.rock, the rest comes off like indie folk as played former alternative rockers. There are some good electric guitar parts that are very much not folk, and the drums occasionally pound away and make the songs more upbeat than most modern folkies would care to get.

The upbeat parts are seldom heard on Redshift/Blueshift, and overall, it’s a very mellow record. That doesn’t mean my toe wasn’t tapping the whole way through. Even in its sparsest moments, when there’s just a voice and a guitar, the rhythm is evident. The band just isn’t beating it over the listener’s head.

As the record progressed, the horns came back, adding even more pleasantness to an already pleasing album. By the time the final track came around, I was thoroughly happy with this record. A- | Gabe Bullard

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