Sunday, October 25, 2009

Review: Tim and the 23s, "Dislocated"

Dislocated album cover by Tim and the 23s
I was sent a copy of a CD by a San Diego rock band, not the obvious review choice for a site dedicated to Philadelphia acoustic music. But like the live Papertrees show (see below), this is a music experience of authenticity and unpretentiousness, a stripped-down recording with acoustic sensibility.

Fronted by songwriter and guitarist Tim Malley, a exile from the Philadelphia coffee shop circuit whose previous work includes a stint in the shock-rock Whiskey Dicks, which also featured Philly folk stalwart Chris Kasper. Kasper also guested on Malley's debut LP, 2006's Tim and the 23s, an credible effort made possible by the input of strong players from the Philly and San Diego music scenes. In the wake of this recording, Malley put together a tight and talented three-piece band with bassist Chris Dutton and drummer Matt Liebowitz. They hit the San Diego bars (for gigs and otherwise) and embarked on several regional tours, forging a close musical bond of straight-up rock with a simple song-centered ethos that shines through on Dislocated (Swell Music, 2009).

From its opening, Dislocated hits with the honest hedonistic rock of "This Party's Gotta Woo!" The lyrics on this and songs like the excellent "Been to California" (with it's great fadeout sheet "I was a mess") and "Gotta Go to Work" express a world-weary knowing: these guys have been around, lived a fun, hard life, are touched by the world they inhabit, but know not to take things too seriously.

Other entries reveal a vibrant sense of humor. Malley references local heroes Ween with his line "didn't believe the roses were free even when they were given to me," and the influence of the "brothers" from New Hope comes across on songs like "Breakfast," the sincere country-folk-rock "Chained to the Line," (co-written by Dan May, now bassist for London pop-punk stars the Spivs [watch their new video here] and for Atomic Suplex, the UK's answer to Bob Log III) and the reggae-esque "Gale Force Winds" and "Mr. Bob Todd." This light-hearted sensibility veers into un-pc territory on "Bad One" (sample lyric: "I slept with your sister, I found her down at the pound") and "Squeel Like a Pig", but never drifts into offensiveness.

Where Malley's debut effort was blighted by some inconsistent production and musicianship, the tight musical comradeship of this 23s iteration perfectly backs up the honest hedonistic rock. Leibowitz's intelligent, well-stated drumming and Dutton's earthy bass-playing combine in a grungey interplay, an ideal platform for Malley's excellent guitar work (see tracks 3, 4, 7, and 8, among others) and strong, forceful vocals.

The striped down sound, unrepentant rock, and existential/humorous lyrics come together perfectly on Dislocated's high-quality final track, "Neighborhood," Malley and co's homage to their friendly SoCal beach town. (Sample lyric: "my friend named Karen's got a friend named Larry and he sleeps on her couch.") When the band sing "we all live in the neighborhood," they make you wish you did too. A Philadelphia return is eagerly anticipated.

Band: Tim and the 23s
Album: Dislocated (Swell Music, 2009)
Produced by: Tim and the 23s
Engineered by: Chris Dutton, Tim Malley, Kyle Thompson, and Deborah Reeves
Mixed by: Kyle Thompson
Engineered by: Alastair Spitzley

See for more information.

"Been to California" from the album Dislocated by Tim and the 23s, live at the Radio Room

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Papertrees at Clark Park Festival

I unfortunately haven’t been making it out to see much music recently, but I did catch a great set by the Papertrees at the Clark Park Festival in September 20th. I’ve heard a bunch about this band and this was one act I’d been waiting to see. They are often on bills with Chris Kasper, Joshua Park, and other top names from the Philadelphia acoustic music scene (see below). They feature one of Philly’s best guitarists in Carl Cheeseman (was he playing at Clark Park? I wasn’t too close to the stage; whoever it was was great, really well considered use of the instrument), and one of the Philadelphia music scene’s best keyboardists in Andrew Lipke (he’s also a good solo performer). They have created a smoothly infectious blend of sounds. The instrumentation is almost solely electric, but they retain an almost acoustic folksiness, combined with a hip rock sensibility that has echoes of Cat Power and modern rockers like Wolf Parade and Clap Your Hands.

Papertrees is fronted by a talented female singer in Allison Polans, she has a versatile voice ideal for the band’s sincere sound blend. The songwriting is varied and of a consistent quality. They are playing a couple gigs this month, go catch them, I’m glad I did.

Papertrees Shows in Philadelphia October 2009 (as listed on their myspace page)
October 10th: House show with Joshua Park, Sweetheart Parade, and Liz Fullerton.
October 28th: North Star Bar with Chris Kasper and Caught in Motion.

Papertrees live in 20088