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
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
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