31 01 2011

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One Day, Earth Time
Stray Kites

7 out of 10

Lo-fi folk duo buck convention with a wink and a smile

by Jericho Cerrona
January 31, 2011

Ashburn, Virginia’s Stray Kites craft a playfully minimalistic brand of folk on their debut One Day, Earth Time, an album that at times sounds both inconsequential and inviting. The fact that the duo (made up of vocalist/guitarist Junior Roseboro and percussionist Max Detrich) tag their sound “post-pretentious” should key the listener in right away to the level of loopy freedom and musical joy on display here. The lo-fi recording techniques and free-wheeling atmosphere gives much of One Day, Earth Time a sense of unpredictability as songs reveal shards of melody buried within the clang of bongos, handclaps and twitchy acoustic guitar strumming. A laid-back sense of irony and wit is also evident, as Roseboro’s ability to spout out laconic metaphors in an almost spoken-word fashion is quite welcoming.

Throughout the album’s ten tracks one gets the feeling that these are two musicians making music simply for the love of the process. They almost dare the listener to dismiss them and most likely wouldn’t mind either way. Surely one of the best things that can be said about Stray Kites is their apparent unwillingness to view their work as a platform for financial gain or popularity (the entire album is available for free download on their site), and this kind of aesthetic seeps through into much of the actual songwriting.

The album’s best songs, such as the rollicking ditty “The Inkblot” the minimalist acoustic “Tiles/Moccasins/Jetpacks” and the Destroyer-esque rocker “After I Say Sunshine” perfectly combine charming melodies with a sense of fractured quirkiness. There is also two interesting interludes, the thirty-two second “Grimace” and the fifty-one second “She knows…” The former showcases an experimental boldness only hinted at on the album as a whole with what sounds like off-kilter xylophone and accordion with Roseboro repeating the lines “I’m on my own again” and the latter is actually one of the most lyrically memorable tracks despite its short length.

The downside here is that since the entire album is largely a ramshackle affair, some of the tracks simply fail to make an impression. “Wake Up” for example features a memorable hook with Roseboro’s eccentric vocal delivery and catchy handclaps but the song ends just at the moment it should really be taking off. “Curse Our Fate” is a somewhat shapeless song with noodling acoustics that takes a good two minutes before the lyrics even kick in and closer “Talking Plaster Walls pt.4” feels directionless just for the sake of weirdness. Surely this kind of thing is intentional, but perhaps some of these songs could have been stronger with a little more focus and discipline.

Overall One Day, Earth Time is a solid jumping off point for a duo still experimenting with their musical template. This is undoubtedly music not to be taken too seriously (in a good way) and Roseboro and Max Detrich’s jaunty, angular arrangements suggest that they are having a lot of fun with genre conventions. With a new album due out later this year titled Mieux and based on the excellent lead single “Misanthrope”, Stray Kites seem to be expanding upon their sound, adding more instruments and layers to the mix. Here’s hoping that they can capitalize on the initial promise of One Day, Earth Time and reach a wider, if idiosyncratic, audience.

“After I Say Sunshine” by Stray Kites

To download a free copy of One Day, Earth Time, click on this link!

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