August 05, 2004

Unbunny "Snow Tires"

When I was in college, I fell in love with Unbunny, though in the back of my mind I really felt it was pointless. I first heard them several years ago, back when I had more acceptance of lo-fi indie-rock and a love for bands I knew were underdogs. Nobody was ever gonna hear of Unbunny, and I knew it. I doubted Unbunny would really have any lasting power. In this fickle underground of ours, bands come and go and if nobody notices right off, chances are your band will break up or you’ll simply quit when you realize you need money to buy bread and pay rent. Besides, at the time the hip kids were really getting into Built to Spill, and that bunny mastermind Jarid del Deo's voice sounded remarkably like a lo-fi version of Doug Martsch didn’t help them, either.

Now it’s 2004, Built to Spill has been a major disappointment for several years, yet Unbunny remains. The simple fact that del Deo kept on making music was the first thing that impressed me about his new record. I thought Unbunny was a band of the past, to be wondered about in emails and discussion lists and used as collateral for depleting indie cred. That they’d refine their sound into a more rootsy, country-like style isn’t surprising, considering they were already a down-to-earth kind of band. What is surprising is that their music-which, aside from much better fidelity, hasn’t really changed at all-sounds so current, so modern; it’s so in style now, that you would be forgiven for not knowing that del Deo’s been making the same kind of music for the past ten years.

The plain fact of the matter is that with Snow Tires del Deo has firmly proven himself to be in the same league as Grandaddy's Jason Lytle and My Morning Jacket's Jim James. “Pink Lemonade” is two chords and one verse away from being used as the basis of a plagiarism lawsuit; that it sounds like exactly like "I Shall Be Released" is obvious the very first note. Not that this is a bad thing; del Deo's voice is so soothing and beautiful--which is yet another wonderful suprise--you'll instantly forget about the Band's version. As he ends the song with the plain, painful chorus of "don't leave me with the shakes," you'll find yourself not wanting to leave him with the shakes. The rest of Snow Tires carries on with a style that's clearly indebted to Neil Young. Songs like "Nightwalking," "Certain Lights" and "I Leave Stones Unturned" eschew modern musical ideas for sounds not heard since 1975. This isn't a bad thing--especially if you love the sound of heartfelt music made by a young man who has nothing but sincere affection in his heart.

There's nothing wrong with loving Snow Tires, and it's even nicer to know that del Deo has returned with a strong collection of songs. Though the record's main flaw is that it is criminally brief--nine songs in twenty-seven minutes doth not an album make--it's a record that will instantly stun you, leave you breathless and reaching for a lover, and will lead you to hit 'repeat.' Snow Tires is easily one of this year's stunning musical surprises.

--Joseph Kyle

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