You can see why Chris Walla likes Telekinesis. The Death Cab For Cutie boards-manner has surely noticed frontman Michael Benjamin Lerner’s vocal (and sartorial) similarities to one Ben Gibbard, as well as his gold mine of power-pop potential — and thus has done his best to plug the guy, from big-upping him on Stereogum to writing his press release to producing his debut album, Telekinesis! The good news for those not so hot on recent Death Cab is that Walla seems to have taken the opportunity to produce Telekinesis! as he would have a decade ago, returning to the no-frills mid-fi of The Photo Album and largely eschewing the post-Loudness Wars sheen that’s plagued his work on the Decemberists’ major label output.
The better news is that Lerner, at least right out of the gate, hits the ground running in a way Gibbard took albums to do. The songs are fuzzy and big and bold, all power chords and stomped bass drums. Lerner’s confident tenor races over the noise with an attention ever devoted to melody — pop first, power- second. He’s a tender balladeer as well, calling Rogue Wave’s “Falcon Settles Me” to mind on the acoustic “I Saw Lightning.” He spends much of the album singing about fending off loneliness (“Imaginary Friend,” another welcome near-Rogue Waver) and loss: “All I know is what I don’t know / and I don’t want to let you go, oh no,” comes the chorus of “Look To The East.” Or “Tokyo” (sensing a theme? somebody tweet @ Rivers Cuomo), where he sings, “I try to keep up but I know I’m failing.” I don’t know about that — Harlem Shakes’ monolithic full-length aside, on Telekinesis!, Lerner’s failures sure sound a lot like the year’s best debut.
Telekinesis – “Coast of Carolina”: mp3
(Telekinesis! is due from Merge on April 7)
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