Psychedelic Doo-Wop Pop
Hop Hop Records – January 29th, 2016
Idiot Glee is a musician that most who are interested in Lexington music are acquainted with to some extent – Idiot Glee is the newest album, and the best, most representative yet. This self-titled release is the first release since Four, and the first released through Lexington’s Hop Hop Records since Life Without Jazz was issued close to three years back. It’s no coincidence, I think, that this album is self-titled, even if it comes more than five years, more than five albums into the Idiot Glee discography. The album captures elements of all the past releases – the songwriting of Four, the texture and ambience of The Prairie, the clarity of Life Without Jazz – and combines them all into something distinctly and simply defined as Idiot Glee.
The album is also the most album-like of any release thus far. “Deep Warm Something” sounds much like it’s titled, easing you into the album with whirling electronic tones before giving away into an uptempo ragtime-esque piano-driven groove. With your palette effectively cleansed, “Baby (I Could Be Your Bone)” is a hazy, rich, mid-tempo, danceable tune with a catchy guitar hook and a lengthy instrumental outro. “What’s That Smell?” is a fun, nearly surfy track, and recalls some of the piano of the intro track – the instrumental breaks between verses getting noisier and more distorted as the song progresses. Slowing back down, “I Don’t Feel Right” grooves steadily as Friley offers offers one of the most personal lyrics of the album, mixed with a really gorgeous midpoint – listen closely when the psychedelic, doo-woppy wave of synthesizers, drum machines, and “why don’t I” crashes into the second half of the song. A shorter instrumental interlude, “Chinese New Year” is thoroughly reminiscent of the more ambient music found on The Prairie, but is not simply a throwaway track – it sets up the second half of the LP, while carefully keeping momentum under close control.
The album’s latter half starts out strongly with the first single, “Evergreen Psycho” – a richly produced track mixing acoustic guitar, piano, and bright keyboards as it relates the story of an evergreen tree befriending a cactus, only to steal the water it holds inside. The two tracks that follow were among the last on the album to leave an impression on me, but particularly interesting ones nonetheless. “Personal Computer Television” is orchestrated much like another track from The Prairie but with almost unsettling lyrics, like “have you ever told your brother / mom / priest / sis they’re just the same” as it simmers down to a quiet close. Friley looks to the future on “The Whip” as he sings about teaching “the kids how to write a hook,” punctuating verses with increasingly noisy guitar breaks. “Chinese New Year Reprise” settles things back down a little, leading straight into the last song. “The River” is a picture perfect ‘final track’ to an album, and a beautiful one at that – after an introduction of only piano and harmonized vocals, it bursts richly into the second half of the song and gives Idiot Glee a sense of definite closure.
All in all, this album listens all the way through better than anything Idiot Glee has put out thus far. And though it might sound familiar to those who have listened to past albums, it seems confidently the most illustrative of the sound that James Friley wants to achieve. The songs are more intimately personal than before, the orchestration is brilliant, the production is pristine, and Idiot Glee is an album absolutely representative of its maker.
Tracks I Liked: Baby (I Could Be Your Bone)!!, What’s That Smell?, I Don’t Feel Right!!!, Evergreen Psycho!!!, Personal Computer Television, The Whip!, The River!!
Ben Southworth – January 28th, 2016 – Kenwick Place
On Friday, Lexington’s Idiot Glee announced that they’d be releasing their self-titled album on January 29th. Idiot Glee will be released through Hop Hop Records and is the first release since Four was released about a year and a half ago in 2014. Given the album notes uploaded on Bandcamp, and much like previous releases, this album looks to be made mostly of the sounds of its central musician, James Friley – though there will be some additional sounds on a few tracks from Case Mahan and Jamie Adkins, both members of the live band. The album art, which is pictured, was created by renown Lexington artist, Robert Beatty – who has done work for several of Idiot Glee’s previous releases. Stephen Trask, another Lexingtonian known for writing the music for Hedwig and the Angry Inch, helped produce the album – his presence is evident in the remarkable fullness and fidelity that is found on the single that was shared.
“Evergreen Psycho” is embedded below, and is a bit of a departure from the more dominant sounds on previous Idiot Glee albums, but it also feels like the natural progression. Gone are the old-school drum machines that made up Life Without Jazz and Paddywhack, as well as the lo-fi tape warble of Four. Instead, it’s replaced with spotless production, layers of keyboards, and nearly a psychedelic haze. If you’re an Idiot Glee fan, you’ve probably already heard it – if you haven’t, you should give it a play:
Ben Southworth – November 15th, 2015 – William T. Young Library
Night-People Records – December 14th, 2013
I must confess, it’s taken the better part of the year for me to get used to seeing Idiot Glee as a foursome, rather than just James Friley with the multi-keyboard/drum-machine/loop-pedal setup that he started out with. It’s grown on me, though – the band has done an excellent job of fleshing out his tunes, and some of the new stuff they’ve come up with since forming has been fantastic. That said, to receive a notification in my mailbox that a new album, titled The Prairie, had been released was a big surprise, and a good one at that. The album is divided into three major sections, each with three songs a piece – “The Prairie,” “Position,” and three already known Idiot Glee songs, reworked on solo piano. The first portion starts out with piano and electronic bass before adding textures of synth – the entirety of “The Prairie” (parts one through three,) comes in at over twenty-two minutes, but I assure you it’s a beautiful listen the whole way through. “Position” and its three parts is about half the length of the first portion, but is an equally beautiful and mesmerizing piece built with an acoustic guitar at its very base. Sprinkled in are more immediate rhythm from the bass and synthesizers, but it remains a meditative companion to the first third of the album. The final chunk of the album is perhaps the most interesting to Idiot Glee fans – the last three songs (“Swimming Pool,” “Trouble at the Dancehall,” and “Little Berlin”) are live takes of James and a piano, without further accompaniment. They all translate remarkably well to the stripped down sound, and are played with such nuance as to give them their own identity outside of their original iterations. For an album that was released without much notice or hype, The Prairie is an excellent addition to Idiot Glee’s discography (or tape-ography,) and is absolutely worth a listen.
Ben Southworth – January 16th, 2014 – Hagermann and Maxwell
Genre: Trippy, swirly post-doo wop
I’ve been looking forward to this record for a long time, and I’m sure anyone else who’s familiar with Idiot Glee has been too. Life Without Jazz, James Friley’s first release since his widely adored Paddywhack, is without a doubt worth the wait. The EP features songs that he’s played at shows – if you’re a constant audience member, these will sound familiar –but the level of polish on this album is at a whole new level than what he’s done before. Sure, much of the spectacle behind Friley’s one man act is just that – it’s a one man act. But even without attending a single show, Lexington outsiders will find themselves mesmerized by this entire album. More so than before, James has included staples of Lexington’s music scene to collaborate – Matt Duncan has a sax solo front and center on the title track, Ainsley Wagoner can be heard all over the place via background vocals, and the sax/guitar duel on “Little Berlin” (a la Duncan and Trevor Tremaine) is absolutely crazy. Rounded out by Robert Beatty’s distinct artwork and Eric Lanham’s post-production, this album is truly a product of Lexington. The atmosphere here is unparalleled – just shut your eyes and give a listen to the whole thing, you’ll know what I mean. James Friley and the folks at Hop Hop are doing it right – the product of the folks in this town is prolific and ever-improving.
Tracks I Liked: Each and every one of them – Especially Life Without Jazz and Little Berlin
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– Ben Southworth