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EP Review- David Thomas Jones- "Comfort Creatures"

EP Review- David Thomas Jones- "Comfort Creatures"

David Thomas Jones, taking after his better-known "Indiana" namesake, typically consorts with primitive relics of a bygone age. Namely, a 4-track cassette tape recorder. This was the man's go-to gear for recording his music, typically in the living room of his apartment. It's what his Watch Out For Rockets crew recorded on. They turned out 5 albums-worth of stellar lofi alt rock on that thing, catching attention and raising expectations all over the continent.

But we're using the past tense here (maybe you caught that), because Jones has managed to get in some time in a real recording studio, on real equipment.  And rock-star producer/engineer James Jones manned the conn and caught it all in Protools.  And the results confirm our best hopes - In a pristine setting, Jones did what he does best, and now we have, arguably, the best indie alt rock record of 2012.

Bold statement, that. But not a stretch, really. Go back and listen to those 5 lofi releases. Glimmering between the tape hiss and room noise and muddy tonal balance, it's hard to miss the budding compositional chops. Like John Williams, Jones has that knack for generating tunes from a wealth of genres that are familiar enough to hang a motif on, yet fresh enough to rivet our attention.

Our Lives, for example, is the opening track. A World-flavored, David Byrne-ish tune, with disco-danceable percs and a marimba-lead melody, then sealed tight with Jones' easy-to-sing-along-with chorused vox. It's a viral-inducing, irresistible piece of work, and a pretty far piece from your typical lofi stuff. This opening is followed up by the easy-in alt-rock "Diced Gold"; a vaguely familiar rock-pop number with definitely unfamiliar breaks and bridges. Then, the loveable straight-up rock of "Butcher In The Sky" enters as a moody & somber, yet easy-to-air-guitar-and-bellow-along-with rock anthem. Next, the cinematically-familiar "Perfect Knots" gives us a softer, jazzy, piano & drum & bass number, with Jones' vox gently luring us close before skewering us with a dramatic piano arpeggio - Surprisingly subtle stuff from a guy known for lofi. 

The next track though, "The Deaf Words", obliterates the previous gentle touch with thick rock-steady guitar thrash, and then kills it with an almost-too-abrupt fake ending. "Alibi" brings intimacy as Jones' picks the acoustic guitar along folksy chord progressions, but not dipping into folk art. And the last track, "Coffin Electricity", seals and delivers the package with a more familiar driving-rock theme.

And when you look back over this collection, the alt rock and jazz and folk and thrashing-rock, the hard and soft motifs, the subtle and not-so-subtle, you see a variety of influences and sounds; none of which overpower, and all of which comprise a masterful whole. Stepping up his production game, Jones has deftly navigated past the Charybdis of indie releases - No track sounds like another. And all shine with the happy confluence of professionally-handled tech meeting masterfully-generated art. For a first step into a brave new studio-clean world, it's off-the-charts good, and one of the best Austin-based releases this year. -Scott Osborn

Comfort Creatures is due Nov. 27th.

Find out more on David Thomas Jones on Fakebook or on his website at www.davidthomasjones.com.

Published: November 17, 2012 |

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