During my early 20’s, I grew quite familiar with and fond of Pink Floyd’s entire catalog of music. I marveled at the band’s ability to create an almost tangible scenery with their fourth studio album, Ummagumma. I spent countless hours traversing its cosmic dreamscape and crawling into corners of this album that very few know exist.
When I heard Black Books’ “Favorite Place”, the opener on their self-titled debut album, I immediately recognized a similar ability this band had in creating a vast, ambient setting. While Ummagumma‘s journey was an instrumental, planetary one, Black Books’ is more astral. “Favorite Place” originally appeared on the Austin based band’s EP Aquarena, but it also successfully lays the framework for their first full length studio album. This song creates what could be anyone’s favorite place as it blooms into a dream with its alluring synths and buzzing, drowsy bass while singer, Ross Gilfillan lulls, “I couldn’t breathe/ you’re exceptional.”
Following “Favorite Place”, “Maria” mounts gradually with its vacillating sound effects and uses the building suspense to its advantage. It takes off mid-way through with feverish guitar and drums accompanying the effects and drives “Maria” to a candid, bombastic close: “Who cries a tear for you?/ No one but Maria.”
Throughout the album, droning synths and mystical effects join subtle guitar and steady drumming to set the scene while soaring, Oasis meets Band of Horses vocals act as a vehicle, propelling the listener through the environment. The album is full of full of slow-burning dreamy ballads juxtaposed with swampy, My Morning Jacket-esque southern rock anthems.
Having already opened for The Flaming Lips and with such an impressive first LP, Black Books are a promising young band that will continue to develop and come into their own. Being compared to an array of outstanding artists so early on gives the band’s sound a sturdy foundation while leaving ample room to grow.
Keep Black Books on your radar: they’re going places.
Rating 4.5 / 5
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