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
this record is an amazing piece of musical folklore.
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