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Singer - Mindreading

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Artist: Singer

Album: Mindreading

Label: Drag City

Review date: Jul. 14, 2011

Someone got it right when they named this band; like Alex Chilton once said, it’s the singer. Not that a keep-it-real character like Chilton would have had anything to do with Singer; their music is way too stylized, even precious.

Singer started out as a quartet comprising Todd Rittmann (U.S. Maple), Adam Vida (U.S. Maple, Central Falls), Ben Vida (Central Falls, Town & Country, Pillow), and Robert Lowe (Lichens, 90 Day Men), and as befits any outfit with U.S. Maple in its lineage, its music was pretty twisted, full of stop-start dynamics and guitar bursts that lurch out and back as though they were mounted on strings. But more than anything else, there was tons of singing; voices that quiver and float, that bleat and growl, that swoop up into intricate multipart configurations and down into basso ridiculoso punctuations. It was all a bit much, and certainly not built for the long haul. They lasted long enough to make one record, Unhistories, and do one tour, and then Rittmann was gone.

The remaining three Singers recorded Mindreading two years after the first, and it’s spent another two in the can before finally seeing the light of day. Rittmann took most of the guitar racket with him, leaving plenty of space for Ben Vida and Lowe to fill with their new analog synthesizers. The squishy synth sounds generally complement the voices better, and with one fewer singer striving to be heard, the vocal arrangements rarely feel like they’re trying to bust out of the songs.

But that doesn’t mean that they play it straight. “Night Terrors In Titan” sounds like it is being sung by three David Bowies meeting each other in a Berlin back room, “Dial “M” for Mother” like another Bowie muscling his way into an Eno-Cluster session. In some ways the Eno comparison is more apposite; the words rarely call attention to themselves, but work more as shapes that fit nicely in the singers’ mouths, and you rarely get the feeling that the songs plumb some deep meaning. But they’re dandy at setting up and sustaining a rococo vibe. If you’re up for some artifice, Singer’s got your fix.

By Bill Meyer

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