The Blow | Paper Television (K Records)

Lines like "I guess I'm on the long list of girls that love the shit out of you" strangely bring songwriting closer to reality, and her conversational talk-sing approach lessens the gap between the audience and the musician.

 

cd_blowMirah is still on her yearlong hiatus from touring, and it has been some time since her critically acclaimed album, C'mon Miracle of May 2004. We must turn to fellow KREC labelmate and friend, Kaela Miricich of the Blow (and the Microphones) and Jona Bechtolt (really awesome percussionist). Paper Television pulls together previous glimpses of brilliance into a 10-song quirky-pop masterpiece. Paper Television is still branded by the infectious, signature voice of Miricich and Jona's underlying drum machine accompaniment, but the songs are now tighter. This is a complete album, start to finish, although I bet you can't play it without wanting to repeat "Parenthesis" a couple times over. The Blow maintains indie street cred while reducing the amount of bizarre-for-bizarre sake lyrics.

The album starts off with a bang with the single, "Pile of Gold." The song is similar to a Junior Senior song, comprised of two rushed verses and several catchy choruses like, "All the girls were sitting on a pile of gold." "Pile of Gold" ranks among the best of the previous three LPs and is a good representation of the strength of this album.

If the small Portland band can be accused of selling out, it is to the full-blown pop song and album highlight, "Parenthesis." In "Parenthesis," The Blow match the Yeah Yeah Yeahs' "Wait, they don't love you like I love you," phrase from "Maps" with "When you're holding me, we make a pair of parentheses." Bands like the Blow, the Hold Steady, the Streets, Lily Allen, and the wave of bands branching off from Arcade Fire and Wolf Parade (Tapes n' Tapes, Blood on the Wall, Clap Your Hands Say Yeah, etc.) are all easily susceptible to being branded "passionless." "Parenthesis," however, manages to sound sincere while balancing a '50s throwback beat, and includes curious lyrics such as, "If something in the deli aisle makes you cry/Of course I'll put my arm around you and I'll walk you outside." The song shows maturity from 2005's Everyday Examples, causing the listener to no longer shrug off oddities and search for deeper meanings. The mixture of Miricich's amazing voice melody and the intensity she uses on "Parenthesis" makes it a true song. (Check it out at http://www.myspace.com/theblowus).

The album still has a lot of life, though. "The Big U" is a clever pop song about a power struggle between two girls and one guy. "The Long List of Girls" demonstrates why the Blow's blunt choice of words is superior to constantly trying to be poetic; for example, "I guess I'm on the long list of girls that love the shit out of you." Lines like that strangely bring songwriting closer to reality, and her conversational talk-sing approach lessens the gap between the audience and the musician.

"Bonjour Jeune Fille" flexes Miricich's French skills for the first half of the song before shifting back into English and suddenly becoming a techno number. "Babay" is a pretty good song that could easily be a key track from Paper Television if revised, or possibly remixed.

The difference between this and 2003's Concussive Caress is that there are fewer tracks to skip; songs like "The Touch Me" have evolved lyrically, and the instrumentation from tracks like "Nothing" has become richer. This release is most similar to the 2004 EP, Poor Aim: Love Songs. The tradeoff with the Blow's new direction is that fans of the great acoustic songs like "Watch the Water" and "In My Room" might be disappointed.

One of the album's only mediocre songs, "Eat Your Heart Up," quickly dips in play counts because the nine other tracks are so powerful. If "Pardon Me" was tweaked a little, it could be suitable for one of the interchangeable pop singers to perform. Still, without an American Idol cameo, it's a powerful song. Paper Television ends just as strongly as it starts, with the exciting "Fists Up" bringing forth brilliant lines about not wanting to "come to the point of this song." It has a childish, Kimya Dawson–esque chorus of, "It was perfect, you know, with just one little problem/the fact that it turns out you don't really want it." The last song is another hit, "True Affection," that starts off with the same synthesized piano intro and snapping as "Laffy Taffy"—but then again, what indie artist isn't compared to D4L? "True Affection" is sung in a desperate, wistful tone using sad lyrics: "You were out of my league/at a distance that I didn't want to know," and closing with "I never felt so all alone."

All in all, the 10-track, 30-minute album is fun to listen to and needs no explanation or analysis. Touring with Architecture in Helsinki and releasing their most impressive album to date puts the Blow in prime position to take off. B

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