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Kristian Hoffman
Fop
Kayo
www.kristianhoffman.com


There has been a rather prominent movement in indie rock over the past decade or so to a place that I find strange and perplexing; the move to orchestrated rock a la Queen… I blame it mostly on Sufjan Stevens and his allegedly clever music that for some reason appeals to younger girls but not really to musicians. Unlike Stevens, though, there are others taking orchestration and making good music that still appeals to those who listen to rock music, especially of the classic variety. Kristian Hoffman is a very good example of the higher side of the form. While on the surface he comes across as a mostly gay Sufjan clone, his music has a depth and character that simply trounces the torchbearer of the subgenre. Perhaps it's due to his longstanding relationship with folk art protégé Rufus Wainwright or his surrounding circle of dubious musicians in Los Angeles, but Hoffman has created an album that is clever, filled with pop hooks and sheer joy, and is certainly listenable.

The giant sounds of the record come bounding from the speakers on tracks like "I Can't Go There With You". The songs are filled with cascading piano melodies, ripping guitar solos (sometimes twin solos in the greatest of heavy metal traditions), crisp drumming, and fantastic bass lines that all strongly compliment the beautiful string arrangements. Even the tinkling harpsichord makes appearances on a few tracks, including the epic "Cassandra" and the carnivally wicked "Imaginary Friend". Working in ripping electric guitars and pounding rhythms, things get a little progressive rock sounding on tracks like "Soothe Me", recalling early Alice Cooper records or even moments of Genesis, and the garagey tones of "Hey Little Jesus". But nowhere is the pop sensibility and ability more evident than on a song like "Stay", with its jumping rhythms, excellent backing vocals (think the best moments of Elvis Costello), and quick tempo the song is an instant classic.

So put away those Sufjan records and delight in real orchestrated pop with Kristian Hoffman. The music is better, the songs more interesting and engaging, and the overall production glorious…. If the modern productions on Broadway could do music like this, I believe the theater would be a much better place to spend some time.

-Embo Blake

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