Or, The Whale: Light Poles And Pines

By: Dennis Cook

Launching out with all the strummy, harmonized vigor you could want, Light Poles And Pines (released January 20 on Seany Records) taps into the shimmering, vaguely off-kilter rock of R.E.M. and early 10,000 Maniacs mixed with older country classics like Dolly Parton and Flying Burrito Brothers, then piles on slices of close-to-the-chest emotions and finely etched observations. One feels pulled in tight and then set free in a way that's tough to put into words. Well constructed, frequently gentle slabs like this are hard to explicate but there's no denying the pleasure and lingering emotional power of San Francisco's Or, The Whale. It's almost like hearing very personal dreams set to pretty melodies delivered with a full but uncluttered group sound full of pedal steel, muted percussion, vibes and shuddering steel strings. A small jewel like "Isn't She Awful" snags the old-time radio charm of the Carter Family, while barroom weepy "Rope Don't Break" holds its own against Lucinda Williams. Boy/Girl lead vocals alternate well with just enough polish and something more homemade enriching their lovely music. Like I said, hard to put one's finger on exactly what makes this one so compelling but it sure does beckon one back in a most enticing way, drawing the listener across the oceans of heartache that splash around on this lovely record.

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http://www.myspace.com/orthewhale

[Published on: 2/7/09]

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