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The Anomoanon - Joji

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Artist: The Anomoanon

Album: Joji

Label: Temporary Residence

Review date: Nov. 25, 2004

Ned Oldham writes old songs. On Joji, the seventh release (and second this year) from his band The Anomoanon, the older Palace brother stirs country-folk and psychedelic pop into a mix that might be called classic, if that denotation hadn’t been bastardized decades ago. Oldham’s music, while drawing on familiar influences – Neil Young and the Grateful Dead are immediately apparent – is diverse enough that it feels far fresher than a by-the-numbers retread.

The opening track, “Down And Brown,” is straightforward country rock. Oldham’s clear baritone cuts through the dirty guitar while loose mountain harmonies flesh out the chorus: “Oh I don’t know why / these things make me / down and brown.” Previous releases had Oldham writing songs around nursery rhymes (Mother Goose, Robert Louis Stevenson), and his original lyrics here are similarly rhythmic and rhetorical. The instrumental breaks are well-placed and focused, rising and falling in matching intensity. Other songs, such as “Green Sea” and “Bird Child,” are more folksy, restrained yet energetic with an immediacy sometimes lacking in the Oldham repertoire.

By constructing a Midwest milieu that has more in common with psychedelic pop than similar alt-country groups, The Anomoanon takes a more populist approach. Sometimes however, Oldham reaches a little too far – in both “Leap Alone” and “Nowhere,” his attempts at a larger palette feel contrived. Sometimes the circuitous instrumental noodling gets a little out of hand and threatens to overpower – first on “Mr. Train,” but most noticeably on the 10-minute epic “Wedding Song,” where the four minutes of guitar work is about three minutes and thirty seconds too long, especially between the instrumental “After Than Before” and the similarly lengthy “Nowhere.”

Ned and Co. seem like the type of strangers who will stick around multiple rounds of whiskey nightcaps before shutting down the lights: it’s an unfamiliar familiarity, these songs. And as the autumn nights get longer, these nightcaps are lifesavers for those who can feel the coming chill in their bones at first daylight. Joji is the record for such days.

By Andrew Mall

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