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The Broken String preview

Bishop Allen is often pegged as a "blog band", and the shoe fits - no "if" involved. So here's the problem: Bishop Allen released a well-documented series of monthly EPs in 2006, and now have an album coming out on July 24th that's primarily composed of revamped versions of songs already released on the EPs. The versions of most of the tracks Bishop Allen devotees like myself (ahem, see Last.fm) have come to love tend to have a minimalist more than lo-fi feel to them, and versions of these tracks on The Broken String are meant to be a bit more sophisticated.

The resulting album is something of a mixed blessing. With "Rain" and "Butterfly Nets" I'd argue the album versions of the songs are a significant improvement from the EP versions ("The Flood" on August's EP being the live version of "Rain"). "Middle Management" (posted yesterday on You Ain't No Picasso) and "Choose Again", of which only live versions existed prior to the recording of the Broken String, are both additions to the band's catalog.

However, in some cases the newer versions of songs are by no means better. Of all the tracks on the album, "Corazon" provides the clearest example of how more complex instrumentation can take away from a song's charm rather than add to it. The first 40 seconds of the album version are simply painful, and by the time Justin Rice utters the word "Corazon" I found myself thinking that I felt a good deal more sympathy for the piano before I heard what it actually sounded like. Without the introduction (those 40 seconds) the song would have been a perfect acceptable re-interpretation of the original.

Nowhere else on the album are the changes so blatantly damaging or is the new recording not on par with (or better than) the old one. Even so, the Broken String still loses the expectations game for fairly obviously reasons - most of the material isn't new and the album's versions of songs don't blow you away. Is there a lesson to be learned here? Yes, but...

I'd argue the ultimate test of any album is this: Would I buy it? Would I tell my friends to buy it? Would I buy it for them?
The Answers: Yes, yes, and yes.

Buy Bishop Allen albums, EPs; no information on how to pre-order The Broken String yet, it's out July 24th
Tour dates w/ Page France and the Teeth (DC on July 22 and Dayton, OH on Aug 11)

Bishop Allen - Like Castanets (file removed by request)
Bishop Allen - Rain (The Broken String)
Bishop Allen - Middle Management (The Broken String) at You Ain't No Picasso
Bishop Allen - I Get Along (December EP)

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4 Responses to “The Broken String preview”

  1. # Blogger Ryan of the RSL blog

    Fantastic band  

  2. # Blogger Kate

    Claro que si.  

  3. # Blogger Jim

    I was, and still am desparately in love with "The Monitor" from the March EP, and feel that the album version which opens the album is another fine example of where more is less. The album version just can't compare.  

  4. # Blogger Kate

    Yeah, that was the other song besides Corazon where I feel like the album version really went wrong.  

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