Written By: Allen Brewer
Label: Burning Building – Rating:
John Van Deusen and his bandmates in Lonely Forest walk a fine line. By creating power-pop driven by piano, they risk sounding childish and overly playful but great songwriting and psychedelic textures make sure that the Washington based group craft a mature album, We Sing The Body Electric!, with hints of brilliance as well as some room to grow.
This isn’t your daddy’s piano music.
No hints of Billy Joel or Elton John here. Unlike them, the piano isn’t the main focus. Instead, the songs are built up around it, using it as a way to add depth of sound and more interesting background. In the foreground are distorted guitars that meander and multilayered vocals. The harmonies lend themselves more to old-timey folk music than to the Beach Boys.
On the opener, “Two Pink Pills,” the strong vocals are pushed to the front, showcasing an ear for melody. It ends with a single, harmonized note, leading directly into the swirling guitar line of “Blackheart vs. Captain America.”
From there, the band takes off with soaring vocals and catchy hooks. On “Julia’s Song,” Van Deusen gets a chance to put the spotlight on his piano. With no guitar in the song, the piano is backed by a simple drum beat and some strings. While the strings sound canned, Van Deusen’s falsetto breaks over the backing music and really reaches something special.
To clarify, Van Deusen’s voice is not what is considered technically special. He doesn’t have the range of a Jeff Buckley or the power of a Chris Cornell but it has an everyman quality that makes him easy to listen to and gives the music a bit more resonance and credibility.
“Borders and Towns,” showcases that aspect of his voice very well. At times it’s incredibly strong, at others, it’s vulnerable and wounded. At two minutes and forty-four seconds, it is the closest thing to a perfect pop song on the record and Van Deusen’s vocals are a large part of that.
One quibble with the sound: the guitars are a tad on the heavy side for the style, the vocals are occasionally washed out by chunky chords. In addition, the psychedelic touches are good, but tend to make the songs begin to sound repetitive, using them more sparingly would differentiate and intrigue more.
However, the band is young and will learn the subtleties of their craft eventually. Until then, We Sing The Body Electric! is a fine example of a solid, catchy album.