Thursday, August 16, 2012

Curious Quail: All it Took Was The Name

Sometimes all it takes is an inventive band name to catch my eye. With the case of an extraordinary San Jose band, it's a name as inventive as CURIOUS QUAIL. I literally had no idea what to expect when I stumbled across their album "Instant Gratification" on one of my late night random searches. After a few dalliances with their tumblr page I dove headfirst into the album. I'm a very glad I did.

The opening track is a laptop pop confection entitled "Once In A While". Not a bad start but not the best the band has to offer. By the time the guitars crank up with "Disappointed Smiles" one senses something special is afoot. Lead singer Mike Shirley-Donnelly has a laid back vocal style punctuated with enough inflection to keep the listener off balance. "When Cats Learned to Speak" utilizes a little keyboard tinkle and a skippy drum beat to push the song along to the point where you just get lost in the groove. But then the listener arrives at "Survivor's Guilt" and time literally stops. I haven't been floored by a single song in a long time. Like a long lost cousin of a good SMASHING PUMPKINS song meshed with the emotional depth of a CLAP YOUR HANDS AND SAY YEAH poem, Shirley-Donnelly digs deep into his soul and explodes across the song. There is genuine pain and emotion pouring out of it in a way that make you come back again and again.

After the sheer brilliance of "Survivor's Guilt", there is bound to be a let down. "The GLOW" is a POSTAL SERVICE style lament. "Something Under The Bed Is Drooling" is the turn to a quieter more acoustic laden sound for the second half of the record. There are shades of DAVID BYRNE in the vocals and the violin becomes more prominent in the back part of the record. By the end of the record, "closing with the elegiac "Playground", the listener has been on a emotional journey of childhood fears and hopes along with adult loss and love. It's a heady record that grows more detailed with each listen. At least for me, a candidate for record of the year.

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