August 14, 2003

Tonefarmer "Where you Go"

Thank you, Tonefarmer. You've quelled one of my biggest fears. It seems as if it's uncool to be an excellent songwriter, but with Where You Go, you've helped me to realize that melody and attentive detail to songwriting is, of all things, coming back into fashion. You guys have gotta know this, or you at least must be aware that there's a general lack of excellent pop music that doesn't automatically aim for the lowest common denominator. And it's good to hear that you guys aren't aiming for the disaffected upper-class teenage outsider market, either (Hello, Mr. Oberst, Ben Gibbard is on line one!). There's more to life than having cookie-cutter teenage kids listing you as an interest on Live Journal, too.

Tonefarmer--okay, let's just get this out right now, because it has to be said--sound like IRS-era R.E.M. At first, I even thought Where You Go was really Life's Rich Pageant by pressing plant mistake. When the first chords of "You Don't Turn Around" hit your ear, youll automatically think, "this sounds familiar." When lead singer Rob Hamrick opens his mouth, you'll swear you're hearing the long-haired Michael Stipe. I'm pretty sure that Tonefarmer are going to get sick of the R.E.M. comparisons, but darn it, Hamrick's a dead ringer for Stipe, and an excellent dead ringer at that! Lest you forget, R.E.M made some wonderful records before they were posterboys for alt-rock or the cautionary tale of being a band who are too long in the tooth.

While it's true that imitation might not be the forebearer of originality in this fickle music world in which we thrive, but all's fair in love and war, baby. R.E.M. dropped that jangle-country-folk-alternative-bliss crown a decade ago, so we really cannot hate Tonefarmer for finding the crown, picking it up, dusting it off and placing it on their head. In so doing, they've really taken a risk; the whole R.E.M. thing may or may not be out of date, depending on whom you ask. When you make totally and utterly wonderful songs like "I Need You to Be True" and "Where You Go," though, an expiration date should be the least of your concerns. The only way that these songs could be made better, mind you, would be having Mitch Easter behind the production.

While Where You Go may be brief, it is never slight. It's always a wonderful experience, finding an artist who can say so much and leave a vast impression on you over the course of six songs, and Tonefarmer have won me over. Does the world still like intelligent music? I hope so, for Tonefarmer's sake; they have quietly discovered a wonderful pop-song formula, and it's merely a matter of time until the world soon discovers their
magic. Still, an excellent record like Where You Go should not go unheard; luckily, I have this distinct feeling that it won't.

(For audio samples and more information, please visit

--Joseph Kyle

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