You know what’s stupid about Rdio? There aren’t any liner notes anywhere. I don’t know how many of you still care about this kind of stuff, but personally, I’m a big believer in both the tactility and the informative function of a physical booklet. It’s especially good to have when your job is to critique an album. And the album is a career-spanning anthology. And it’s by an obscure band that’s an offshoot of another obscure band. Such is the case with the release of Music for Neighbors by The Trypes, a band that contains at least two members (and probably more) of The Feelies and that’s about all I know about them. As far as I can tell, they never recorded a full-length album, just a few hard-to-find EPs; this release brings together all of their material in a single spot.
And here’s where some liner notes would be pretty handy – the first five songs on the album are clearly from a different recording than everything else, but I don’t know where the divides are between records past that. This is pretty important information to know – context certainly isn’t everything, but it can be a big factor in how you perceive and experience a piece of music, and without the proper context of where all these various parts fell in the career of The Trypes, it’s hard to get a feel for how they grew as a band.
But I guess what’s really important is whether the songs are any good, and in that respect I can say “mostly”. Those first five tracks are kind of boring alternative rock songs, but there’s a marked change with “Belmont Girl is Mad at Me” – suddenly, the production gets lo-fi, the singer starts rambling like Lou Reed and singing like a cross between David Bowie and David Byrne, and all the songs become melancholy, unsettling and mysterious psychedelic folk. This stuff sounds great – it’s drone-y but dynamic, and the quirky use of clarinets, saxophones and other wind instruments does a great job of enhancing the emotional heights of the songs but never breaking the feeling of hazy dreaminess. The songs do eventually become a bit more lucid, but they retain the same basic feel. Oh, and there’s also a decent cover of The Beatles’ “Love You To” and a not-so-great version of The Rolling Stones’ “Play with Fire”
It’s a sound that, over a full hour and twenty minutes, can get a little bit wearing, which is why maybe this would be more successful if I had an idea of where each individual recording begins, but it’s a very complete package and the sound is pretty unique, and actually quite ahead of its time. Music for Neighbors sounds like the kind of lo-fi indie-folk that gets released today, but this stuff came out in the early and mid-80s, which is pretty remarkable. It’s well worth checking out if you’re in the mood to get lost in some bleary-eyed soundscapes.