Whatfor Sooner Late Than Never(Science Of Sound) Buy it from Insound
What is it with Wisconsin this year? Not content with producing the most acclaimed record of the year in Bon Iver’s For Emma, Forever Ago, the state seems to be developing quite the fertile independent music scene. And it’s Madison rather than the much larger Milwaukee that has captured my attention.
Science of Sound is one of those close-knit community type of record labels, where all the bands seem to consist of varying combinations of the same seven or eight musicians. This isn’t a criticism, it’s actually quite charming, and the music speaks for itself: these guys are all pretty talented songwriters and players.
Whatfor is the brainchild of Michael Sienkowski, drummer for fellow SoS artists Sleeping In The Aviary by day, lo-fi singer-songwriter with a penchant for 60’s influenced pop songs by night. To further confuse matters, Sienkowski is joined here by his SITA bandmates Elliott Kozel (guitar) and Phil Mahlstadt (bass) to flesh out his compositions, and the result is a remarkably accomplished debut that combines the classic songwriting of Ray Davies with the inventiveness of early Of Montreal.
One of Sooner Late Than Never’s strengths is Sienkowski’s willingness to deviate from the classic bass/drums/guitar format. Perhaps it’s because he’s a drummer by trade, but some of the best songs here feel like they weren’t written by a guy with a battered up acoustic guitar, which is a breath of fresh air. There are flashes of cello, trombone, even harpsichord, and some of the compositions that rely most heavily on these instruments are the eventual standouts; Fast Asleep, with its longing vocal and jaunty cello riff for example, is a classic spin on the baroque-pop style. I’m Not Fooling Around probably was composed on guitar, but it deserves special mention for its beautiful harmonies and tinkling xylophone flourishes. It’s probably my favourite thing here and on a debut this strong that’s really saying something.
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Please visit the Science of Sound website, check out Whatfor’s music and support this great independent label.12 June, 2008 - 18:46 — David Coleman