Dusted Reviews

Bishop Allen - The Broken String

today features
reviews charts
labels writers
info donate

Search by Artist

Sign up here to receive weekly updates from Dusted

email address

Recent Reviews

Dusted Reviews

Artist: Bishop Allen

Album: The Broken String

Label: Dead Oceans

Review date: Jul. 26, 2007

Cute. Brainy. Competent. Unremarkable. It’s tough to put your finger on exactly why Bishop Allen’s sophomore release, The Broken String, fails to arouse — the sound is homey, the playing facile and the lyrics keen but not overly precious. Yet for me, all it inspires is indifference.

Maybe I’ve got an indie-pop hangover. Between Arcade Fire and Sufjan Stevens, there exist hundreds, if not thousands of acts whose snap-on earnestness and mid-fi mendacity is clogging, if not the airwaves, than the internets. Bishop Allen, with songwriting duo Justin Rice and Christian Rudder at the helm, are better than most of their peers, particularly in terms of arrangement and execution. Yet, this doesn’t make their efforts any more vital.

The Broken String reminds me of a hypothetical individual in his or her mid-to-late 20s with impeccable fashion sense, good looks and money in the bank. He/she always knows what to say in any given social situation, and is even a decent dancer. But aside from these superficial attributes, there’s not much in the way of substance. In other words, a flat tire of a conversationalist and a yawn in the sack.

So maybe the best thing to do is to enjoy Bishop Allen on a purely surface level. In which case, they’re terrific. There are songs about taking pictures with a wee camera, castanets and bus trips to Chinatown, all set to impeccably assembled, blithely dreamy music.

Most fulfilling is the range of instrumentation. Like Sufjan, Rice and Rudder employ a healthy spread of musical devices in their eloquent ditties, including flutes, clarinets, trumpets, Hammond organ strings and bells — some of which are played by friends and associates. I particularly enjoyed the saxophone solo on “Butterfly Nets,” which also features girlish vocals from Darbie Nowatka, who also does design for the band. It’s pretty stuff; I could easily hear it as the background music for a cinematic canoodle between, say, Mark Ruffalo and whoever subs for Drew Barrymore these days.

But yeah. The Broken String. Bring a date.

By Casey Rae-Hunter

Read More

View all articles by Casey Rae-Hunter

Find out more about Dead Oceans

©2002-2011 Dusted Magazine. All Rights Reserved.