February 06, 2006
Ticondergoa "The Heilig-Levine LP"
Not many bands have the balls to kick their career off by releasing two albums in one year...but when you’ve got as much talent and as many ideas as Ticonderoga, you can do whatever the hell you want! All three members sing, write their own songs, play a multitude of instruments and have an encyclopedic knowledge of the last few decades of indie-rock. The songs on their self-titled debut (which was released last March) were characterized by jarring stylistic shifts and a steadfast avoidance of obvious chord progressions and hooks, which ended up being a double-edged sword. On one hand, Ticonderoga’s ability to channel three or four of my favorite bands at once made listening to their debut an exciting experience; on the other hand, it didn’t give me much to latch onto once the album ended. It took multiple listens for their songs to sink in, which is probably how the band wanted it. However, in an increasingly crowded scene where bands must fight to seize the ever-shortening attention spans of hipsters, the last thing a band needs is for their debut album to be called a “grower.” Seven months later, though, Ticonderoga released a slightly more accessible follow-up that extended a few olive branches to its listeners.
The Heilig-Levine LP isn’t a “pop” album by any means. There are still loads of shape-shifting arrangements, and moments in which the instruments seem to operate in simultaneous yet independent motion. Although the beginning of “Centipede” is played with traditional rock instrumentation, it changes into an electronic twin of itself after the first verse. The band then throws in an acapella breakdown before picking up their guitars and drums again. After two of the members play simultaneous drum solos, the music meanders to a quiet finish. “Flippin’ Burgs” sports an instrumental passage in which the pitter-patter of a synthesizer is paired with a cacophony of screeching violins straight from the shower scene of Psycho. The album’s most unorthodox song might be “Town.” The bass line is played on the lower-register keys of a piano; the over-compressed acoustic guitars get drowned out by flatulent horns, wheezing organs and severely clipped drums.
Unlike their debut, though, this album has a number of songs that could instantly hook listeners who’ve never used the word “post-rock” in their lives. Opening song “Fucking Around” is a brief and catchy kiss-off (“Your long-winded cliches won’t make you different/They’ll just prove you desperate/And like the sunset, you’ll be gone”) that only needs one verse and one chorus to get stuck in your head. “Poison Control,” my personal favorite, shifts from keyboard-driven instrumental passages to crunchy fuzz-guitar verses; if Silkworm and Stereolab collaborated, I think that songs like this would be the result. “They Can Run” and “Why Do You Suppose?” are understated ditties that suggest what the Decemberists would sound like without the adenoids and literary ambitions. Then, there’s the album centerpiece “Country Mouse,” a long acoustic ballad that is occasionally interrupted by Microphones-like bursts of fuzz guitar and out-of-tune piano.
The Heilig-Levine LP refines Ticonderoga’s sound by pairing their already evident strengths — an ear for good melodies, superb musicianship, wicked production skills — with the eagerness to write an actual chorus once in a while. It’s as if the guys suddenly realized that people outside of the rehearsal space they named this album after are listening to their music now. I, for one, can’t wait to see what they have in store for us in 2006!
Artist Website: http://www.ticonderobics.com
Label Website: http://www.fiftyfourfortyorfight.com