I have never claimed to have an overwhelming knowledge of the music
scene out there these days, but I think Margot And The Nuclear
So And So's is one of the truly great bands out there. It's been
a while since I have been this excited about a new band. The band
is made up of eight members playing a wide variety of instruments,
including: guitar (acoustic and electric), bass, lap steel, bells,
synth, melodica, banjo, percussion, cello, trumpet, and yes, meows
(as in cats
). The band members are Richard Edwards, the
singer/songwriter and driving force behind Margot, Andy Fry,
Chris Fry, Hubert Glover, Jesse Lee, Casey
Tennis, Emily Watkins, and Tyler Watkins.
Margot was formed in 2004 in Indianapolis when Edwards happened to
meet Andy Fry in a pet store and started talking about different bands
and some of the music that Edwards had written. When Fry heard the
music, they decided to form a band which eventually gained other local
musicians until they became Margot and the Nuclear So and So's. Although
there is no band member named Margot, the name refers to the character
Margot Tenenbaum played by Gwyneth Paltrow in the funny, yet
intelligent, film The Royal Tenenbaums. Edwards being a former
Indiana University film student and a fan of Wes Anderson makes
this name quite appropriate.
The music they play seems to portray the grey wintry weather one
might experience in Indianapolis. Many have tried to classify or put
Margot in a specific genre but I can't bring myself to do the same.
Their music is very unique and deep both musically and lyrically.
However, I will say the music has a folky pop feel to it which is
reminiscent of Paul Simon, Bob Dylan and a non-bluegrass
Nickel Creek (I could name at least 10 other bands whose influence
can be heard in this album!). Edward's songwriting is incredibly rich
and full of intense chord progressions and a melancholy mood. Each
song is surprisingly deep with many different levels of complexity
coming from the many different instruments without a single instrument
becoming overpowering. Lyrically, Edwards is equally adept and capable
of writing poetic lyrics which are enigmatic on the surface, and metaphoric
as one digs deeper into the meanings. It's no surprise they were signed
so quickly by Artemis, and that they are now one of the rising stars
in the indie music industry. Yet with all this success, Edwards is
not content with his life. Edwards has said, "When we started
this band, I was really content. Then I wasn't - which helps. I don't
think happiness in all facets of your life should be strived for when
you're 22 years old." Let's hope that Edwards can continue as
a malcontent so that we can benefit from the melancholy lyrics and
songs for years to come. Although I have focused on Edward's talents,
I would like to mention the quality of the engineering and post production
of this album. The engineering and mixing of the songs was performed
by Tyler and Andy who did an incredible job.
"A sea chanty of sorts" is the opening song on this album
which has a cold-wind-coming-off-the-sea feel to it with the mourning
cello, occasional military beat of the drums, and ghostly backup vocals
by Emily. "Skeleton Key" follows this up with a driving
dark song, whose melody is carried by the cello to the lyrics, "I
did a horrible thing to that girl/ I bred my misery and drowned it
in her/ And she got me high, and I hardly noticed there were tears
in her eyes/ And I miss you less and less every day, this stream of
whiskey helps to wash you away." "Vampires in blue dresses"
is a type of self deprecating song which has a bit of a lighter tone,
musically. Edwards sings, "Try telling me off, try slamming the
door and tell me I'm not worth your time or the breath I'm breathing."
"Jen is bringin' the drugs" shows that Edwards is not afraid
to talk openly about recreational drug use. The song is only performed
by Edwards and his acoustic guitar using lush chords and his characteristic
voice which sounds like a cross between James Mercer of The
Shins, and Chris Thile of Nickel Creek. "On a freezing
Chicago street" happens to be my favorite on this album because
of the way it actually transports the listener to a freezing Chicago
street with its masterful progressions and use of diminished chords.
Edwards opens up the song by singing, "On a freezing Chicago
street we shook/ Your hands were trembling from all those pills you
took/ and we got drunk off cheap red wine in a paper cup." The
song continues to talk about love and lost love in a surprisingly
realistic view for someone who is so young. Finally, the song we've
all been waiting for, "Paper kitten nightmare". Apparently
Edwards and the gang sings meow 72 times during this surreal song.
The song seems very metaphoric in nature just as a dream might be
from its lyrics to the French voice in the background.
Although I would love to continue talking about each individual track,
I am leaving it up to you to go out and get this album to experience
each track for yourselves. This album is a must listen for any folk
/ pop music lover and anyone who is tired of the same old crap that
keeps infesting the music world. These guys are truly in it for the
music, and it is very apparent in The Dust of Retreat.
1. A sea chanty of sorts
2. Skeleton key
3. Vampires in blue dresses
4. Quiet as a mouse
5. Jen is bringin' the drugs
6. Dress me like a clown
7. On a freezing Chicago street
8. Paper kitten nightmare
9. Barfight revolution, power violence
10. A light on a hill
11. Talking in code
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