White Denim – D [Album Review]

by oz on May 31, 2011

I can’t recall a time that I’ve been as apathetic about new music as I have in May, 2011. I’m the music consumer equivalent of the nihilist, Uli Kunkel, adrift in the pool while passed out on a raft in The Big Lebowski. I’ve spent the last several weeks listening to old Bob Dylan albums in celebration of his 70th, buying Blues albums on eMusic and exploring Buddy Holly’s discography. I need inspiration.

On Friday, I played D by White Denim for the first time and it was defibrillating. I’m pretty sure I just made up that word, but I like it and it feels less awkward than using the word “titillating,” which was on the tip of my fingers. This Austin four-piece jolted me out of nihilism with an electric shock that sent me down the rabbit hole to a Jackie Treehorn party, just to see what condition my condition was in.

As I’m writing, the instrumental song “At The Farm” is playing and it has the power to make a stone sober 33-year old man mildly hallucinate. This album is magical (and I just switched over to my very serious and sincere voice). I’m late to the White Denim party because I always assumed they were some avant-garde indie band that I’d never understand. They are avant-garde, but not in that synthesizer-laptop-handclap-facepainting sort of way. Their innovation is firmly entrenched in jammy guitar-fueled blues, jazz and rock n’ roll.

White Denim’s sound is hard to pin down. Just when you think you have it figured out after “It’s Him!,” “Burnished,” and “At The Farm,” they drop in a beautifully soulful ballad called “Street Joy.” The song that follows is “Anvil Everything,” a song that starts off with dueling guitar lines lying beneath vocals that ascend slowly before diving into oblivion with tempo changes that eventually morph into afro-beat rhythms.  “River To Consider” follows a similar format that sounds, on the surface, as if it’s musical improvisation. It’s not until the arrangements take unexpected u-turns on a dime that you’ll realize the craftsmanship that goes into each track – especially once the proggy flute solo kicks in. Peter Gabriel of early Genesis would be proud.

And speaking of Peter Gabriel, he’d also be proud of the video for White Denim’s first single off the album, “Drugs.” The album ends with the face-melting “Is And Is And Is” followed by the country-folk inspired “Keys.” D is a brilliantly ambitious album that will push you out of your comfort zone. If you feel it’s getting a bit too aggressive, “Street Joy” and “Keys” will provide a grounded respite before the ride takes off again. I have  yet to experience a live show by this Austin four-piece, but from what I’ve heard, they are not to be missed.

Video: White Denim – Drugs

{ 5 comments… read them below or add one }

Shirk May 31, 2011 at 8:53 pm

Now I’m psyched. This album rips.

Woody June 1, 2011 at 11:36 am

These guys cook live. I am always reminded of Zappa when I listen to them or see them live. Mostly because they are not afraid to try some new things. Creativity + massive amounts of talent = awesomeness!!!

Dano June 6, 2011 at 10:03 pm

Defibrillating!!! Love it

Turtuga Blanku June 11, 2011 at 12:46 pm

Zappa meets the Beatles? Nice!
The video is almost somewhat disturbing…


Turtuga Blanku

* Solar Power Music at: http://www.TurtugaBlanku.com *

James Bukowiec July 9, 2011 at 9:24 am

Great review. Fantastic album!
Herbie Mann, Terrapin Station era Greatful Dead, Floyd, early Yes and early Genesis, some I’m-Your-Captain-ish Grand Funk all topped with Beatle harmonies and near Jeff Buckley range. All deconstructed and refigured tastily. I LOVE it!

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