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Music Reviews

Screaming Females - Castle Talk
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Castle Talk
Don Giovanni
Trent Reznor & Atticus Ross - The Social Network [Original Soundtrack]
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The Social Network [Original Soundtrack]
The Null Corporation
Deerhunter - Halcyon Digest
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No Age - Everything in Between
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Everything in Between
Sub Pop
Robyn - Body Talk Pt. 1/ Body Talk Pt. 2
Body Talk Pt. 1/ Body Talk Pt. 2
The Walkmen - Lisbon
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Fat Possum
High Llamas
Beet, Maize & Corn
Drag City Records

Rating: NR/10 ?

October 1, 2004
I feel just awful today. My parents drove ten hours and back to be with me, and left this morning at 6 A.M. I was half-heartedly able to hold back tears until I got to my car, where they had drawn a big smiley face in the frost on my windshield.

I put in Beet, Maize & Corn in hopes that somehow, it would magically transport me, or distract me, to a happy enough place. After all, my review wouldn't look like everyone else's unless I mentioned the High Llamas penchant for Pet Sounds and who could feel bad about that?

This new album marks a change for the band, where they've switched electronic elements for a stripped down, organic version of themselves. It is still chamber pop in the grand tradition of the Beach Boys and honorable 50s memorials, but is almost more melodic and beautiful in such a raw form.

"The Click and the Fizz" sounds so much like a Cole Porter/Chet Baker classic that it begs to be performed onstage by a cast of intimate, gifted artists. In fact, many of the tracks share such an anachronistic charm. Just as there is a brief, heart-stopping moment when visiting a Stax or Chess LP, when the High Llamas' rich violin swells, you are left completely breathless.

"Rotary Hop" is perhaps the closest to the band's signature (sweetly derivative, Wilsonesque) sound, inspired by the jingling heights of Smile. Just as every track is warm and timeless, it proves that even when merging the band's old and new techniques, the ability to court favor remains undisputed.

Instrumentation is something remotely foreign to albums like Buzzle Bee, but it is what characterizes this new release and makes it sound so worn and gentle. Horn and string sections complement nostalgic pitter-patter in immeasurably graceful ways. Even in the shortest tracks, like "Ribbons and Hi Hats," which clocks in at a mere 1:31, we are wrapped in a sonic blanket, familiar and cozy.

If one must harbor a complaint toward the album, it is that Beet, Maize & Corn tends to ramble; though not aimlessly. There is an unhurried quality that results in a delayed sort of charm. While easy hooks and immediacy aren't present, the High Llamas turn the audience into careful, patient listeners. Beet, Maize & Corn is a hearty concoction, winning and worth the effort. And yes, an album so engrossing and nostalgic did well to balance out a day of pining.

Reviewed by Sarah Peters
A former music editor and staff writer for LAS, Sarah Peters recently disappeared. Perhaps one day she will surface again, who knows.

See other reviews by Sarah Peters



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