Monday, August 17, 2009

review: Nathan Oliver--Cloud Animals

Nathan Oliver
Cloud Animals
Pox World Empire, 2009

Nathan Oliver: "French Press"

Cloud Animals is a mix of folk, modern rock, and synth goodness to make a diverse palette of selections. There are some uneven parts here, many of the songs don't really resemble the one that came before it. But they make a whole. A great whole.

The opener carnivalesque "Icicles for Fingers" has this fanciful plucky swing vibe, the bass line keeps its strong and the vocals from Nathan White maintain an edge of playfulness and sarcastic danger. Really, it's an interesting track to include in the context of the rest of the album--it's crazy device is never repeated nor really even hinted at. And, well, it's chilling. But the rest of the album has thrills, spills and melancholia to settle everyone down.

Because the second track
"Under Lock and Key" launches into driving modern rock before ceding to more typical lighthearted folk in "French Press" complete with a high-strung chorus and high-key guitar chords. Nathan Oliver tries on different skins with these songs, moving around a bit to find the best fit. Maybe part of it is that the band lineup changes and essentially revolves around Nathan White. He's got varied tastes and is trying them all out.

Further dalliances include my two favorite tracks: "Playground Lies" and "Red Panda." Deeper grooves with some electric flourishes dashed over them. "Playground Lies" has this wide open bridge and chorus, grandiose in its scale and scope with this heartland naivete, before moving into brooders in "A Dark History" and "Alone in a Fog," taking their own garage rock/shoegaze acoustic plunge. But with all these, there does seems to be some folk-sian narrative, nothing here is churned out completely as a single of the week.

All of that is almost thrown out the window, with "Red Panda" though. It's got this fluid danceable breakdown, that if the song were in isolation, would make indie-rock crushes like The Pains of Being Pure at Heart and Vivian Girls blush. But really, it's only one song, the most frustrating, the most appealing, the most out of left-field that just proves that Cloud Animals really is a carnival.

I have no doubt that Nathan Oliver could throw a bunch of those dance hits together, stack up the indie accolades and then take a bow. But it's only one skin, and Nathan Oliver is still moving through them, like a confused chameleon who happens to look good at whatever is tried on.

But it's okay, Nathan Oliver. We're all willing to wait and grow and laugh and find out with you. Keep doing your thing. We've got all of Cloud Animals to keep us company.

For more Nathan Oliver, check out our list of 5 More North Carolina Bands You Should Hear Now.

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