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Jay Farrar and Benjamin Gibbard
One Fast Move Or I'm Gone
Atlantic Records
www.kerouacfilms.com


For those people who have known me a while, it's been no secret that I've never been a fan of Ben Gibbard's voice. His high, plaintive wail with Death Cab For Cutie never did much for me, and even on the Postal Service record his voice was merely something to be overlooked in the grand scheme of something much greater. But on One Fast Move Or I'm Gone, Gibbard surprises me and I have to rethink my position on his vocals, perhaps concluding that his voice has always been powerful and adept at its craft while it has merely been the songwriting that underpins the tones that have disappointed me. One Fast Move… sees Gibbard singing songs (ultimately) penned by Jack Kerouac, as interpreted by one of my favorite songwriters, Jay Farrar. With a powerful writer's words in his mouth, Gibbard shines as never before.

And it would seem, to those that know me, sacrilege to say that I actually enjoy the songs that Gibbard sings on this new record more than the ones on which Farrar himself is responsible for vocals. I have a long-standing reverence for Farrar and his musical abilities, voice, songwriting, and projects. I think he merely handed off the more "peppy" songs to the higher-registered Gibbard. Farrar does an admirable job of taking Kerouac's words and putting them solidly to some fantastic Americana music, based solidly in acoustic guitar, piano, and mood. The manner in which the music for this record was composed and recorded does a brilliant job of reflecting the attitude that I have always held of Kerouac's writing… there is an intense, but dark, beauty in his words and Farrar does a fantastic job of relating that feeling in these compositions.

"California Zephyr" starts the record off, and was a solid choice for lead single from the record. The track finds Gibbard at his best, his voice filled with a resonance that shows maturity and experience while functioning perfectly within the brilliant mix; the guitars are crisp, the organ thick, and the mood is a perfect mix of relaxation and expectation. "Low Life Kingdom" fulfills the promise of the relaxed mood begun by "California Zephyr" with Farrar taking the vocal duties and turning the song a bit more country sounding. The lads take turns back and forth, Gibbard turning in brilliant performances on songs like "Willamine", a melancholy parade of love, and "All In One", with its brightly laid out tempo and true California-drenched spirit. Gibbard also takes lead on the poppy - and well-chosen single - "These Roads Don't Move", a song that moves and moves, being the most upbeat of the tracks on the record. Farrar seems to take the lead on the more melancholy and thoughtful tracks, like "Big Sur" with its hauntingly aching guitar solos and overly mellow vibe. Nowhere on the record is the fact that these songs are Kerouac's is it more obvious than on the slow-paced and obtuse "San Francisco", as Farrar wields the words like a strange knife, cutting through the reality and sending things back to their abstract beginnings.

One Fast Move Or I'm Gone is not only filled with fantastic songs, but with a top-notch band as well. Farrar himself lays down guitars, organs, and harmonica, while Gibbard plays guitar and drums on the tracks, with the amazing Mark Spencer lending his talents on lap steel and bass and guitar. Aaron Espinoza plays bass on many of the tracks and Brad Sarno gives the album its full country due, laying down some amazingly atmospheric pedal steel licks. All of these musicians added to the wonderfully interpreted lyrics do a wonderful job of creating the cinematic flair on this record that most likely plays wonderfully inside the movie for which it was created. Fans of great music, or Kerouac, or cinematic score should take note… this record is an amazing piece of musical folklore.

-Embo Blake

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