Music Reviews
Tallahassee Turns Ten

Crooked Neighbor Tallahassee Turns Ten

(Crooked Neighbor) Buy it from Insound Rating - 7/10

Tribute albums are always a tough nut to crack. Unfortunately, most sound like a dramatically inconsistent butcher job of the original source material-- making the listening experience a particularly scarring one. On the other hand, with the right artists, tributes can provide a refreshing compilation of compelling performances that are not only reminiscent of your original listening experience, but add to its replay value. This is at times the very same appeal of Tallahassee Turns Ten, providing both an all-star cast of performers (mostly from New Jersey local label, Don Giovanni) and a carefully curated batch of homages to time-tested tunes. 

First, let's discuss what doesn’t work. As much as I would love to pretend that this record doesn’t have any flaws, that simply isn’t the case. Frankly, a solid 2 or 3 tracks are severely out of place-- most offensively misplaced being Jeffrey Lewis’ version of See America Right. I’m more than a fan of Lewis’ previous work, particularly on The Last Time I Did Acid I Went Insane, but his abrasive, manic approach doesn’t match up at all with this particular track (or really any Mountain Goats track that I can think of at the moment). Likewise, the version of Peacocks by Houses is a bit undercooked. The track lulls on and on with a series of random “bleep-bloops” before stumbling into a bizarre R&B handclap breakdown. Honestly, I could understand a band trying to exploit the laid-back vibe of the original version as an explorative jumping-off point, but in the process, Houses misses all of the emotive qualities that make that song truly memorable.

However, these few sour covers don’t at all spoil the whole batch. The album’s opener, Tallahassee, as covered by Youngest Son is actually pretty damn good. Prodigal key-tickler, Steve Slagg, slows up the pace of the original tune and provides a foreboding prepared piano performance that’ll give any listener goosebumps. The record reaches an absolute high on Laura Stevenson’s rendition of No Children. Stevenson’s hazy piano and lush vocals manage to possess all of the same fervor and anguish associated with the original track, without at all being a sound-alike. Just like the original, the song builds layer upon layer of dramatic tension, until a polyphonic wall of Stevenson’s shrilly, high voice screams, “I hope we both die!” The record concludes with a delightfully appropriate cover of Alpha Rats Nest by Andrew Jackson Jihad. The Phoenix folk-punkers manage to cleverly inject the track with some pop-punk pacing that transforms the song into a celebratory ode to life’s most miserable moments.

Tallahassee is an extraordinarily special album for me. I don’t think I’m at all the first person to say this, but it’s gotten me through some particularly rough times and (along with select Elliott Smith albums) has sort of soundtracked many of the worst days of my life. So, needless to say, it was absolutely important for Tallahassee Turns Ten to not suck. Fortunately, it was a great listen.