Sunday, November 30, 2014

Album Review: Tom Levin - Them Buffalo

Artist: Tom Levin
Album: Them Buffalo
Review by Andrea Guy

Tom Levin returns with his sixth album Them Buffalo.   His deep, rich voice is the first thing you notice, then you notice the music. It is impossible to pinpoint the style of Tom's music. There's a touch of the 80s in several of his songs, while the lyrics have a Dylan-equse vibe. The combination of the two make for a very unique listening experience.

The first single from Them Buffalo is “More Than A Song.” This is pure pop bliss that will take you back to the 80s. The guitar riff is reminiscent of Big Country, with some U2 thrown in for good measure. The chorus is sing-a-long catchy.

Tom's voice is an acquired taste. It is by no means beautiful, but the same can be said for artists like Nick Cave, Bob Dylan and Elvis Costello. You can draw comparisons to any of these artists and Tom, as well. The mane thing they share in common, is songwriting.

The album's opening track “Thunder On” is the song that ties in with the album's title.  The lyrics“Thunder on young buffalo” will probably still have a few heads shaking, but the guitar riff will keep you from dwelling on a song about buffalo.

The trippy “Mind's Eye” can only be described as psychedelic. The arrangement is hypnotic and mystical.

The most playful song is “Everyday.” This song shows a lighter side to Tom Levin.  It is a lively fun, feel good song, complete with a few whistles and quirky lyrics. “Little things show me the way, everyday.” and “Like Junior's with his new Crayola's drawing squiggles on the wall.”

The vocals are full of passion and energy. This is one song that will stick with you long after you've finished listening.

Tom does a 360 with “History, Beliefs and Bearded Men.” This is a song that must be listened to and not just heard.  This is song is spiritual in nature. The lyrics are simple “Beyond history, beliefs and bearded me, you'll find your own Jerusalem.”

“Different Drum” is an acoustic masterpiece. It comes with hand claps and a laid back vocal that seems to glide into your ears. The song has a simple arrangement.  The acoustic guitar is the most prominent instrument here, until the end when the saxophone takes over.

“Girl From Nova Scotia” has the poetic angst that can often be associated with Elvis Costello's lyrics. It leaves you wondering how you can “hate you in a beautiful way.”

“Schizo” is the album's shining star. Tom sings about having many personalities while not being schizophrenic. There's a jab at Kanye West here too, that might leave you chuckling. Tom's voice is perfect here, singing in the low registers.

“Summered” returns to a more laid back melody that borders on the unusual. The backing vocals seem slightly off in a slightly creepy way, that tells you that's how they were meant to sound.

The album closes with “Margaret's House” which sees Tom sharing the spotlight with Aimee Bobruk, who co-wrote the song with Tom as well as Thunder On and Everyday. Once again, you get to see a different side of Tom. His voice is deep and romantic here and it blends beautifully with Aimee's. The song is atmospheric, slow and bittersweet.

Tom Levin is an artist that has grown consistently with each album. His songwriting gets better and better. If he has an album out in any given year, it is bound to be one of that year's best, and Them Buffalo is no exception.

Don't let 2014 go by without giving this album a listen.

Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

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