the Notes and Scratches

Pulse of the Twin Cities

wednesday, december 21st, 2005 at 06:34 pm

CD REVIEWS: Local and Independent

The Notes and Scratches
Uh Oh
Tense Forms

This debut from Chicago collective Notes and Scratches comes in an unassuming enough package; it’s just chipboard with an endearing illustration of a cat riding a turtle. Leadoff track “The Hours” begins with chunky muted guitar, but the xylophone and singing saw hold forth the promise of something in the vein of pscyh-country shoegazers Mercury Rev. Seventeen seconds in, though, the drums come crashing through, and that’s when their real M.O. becomes apparent. Broken Social Scene’s manic party vibe is present, but their closest neighbor is the Arcade Fire, although singer Josh Dumas is a husky-throated Tom Waits-alike, not a Bowie/Byrne disciple. The album overall is warm and friendly and it gives the distinct impression of having been recorded with one mic in a big empty room. “Via Satellite” is a long distance lament that’s held aloft by a sympathetic horn section and “The Clockmaker’s Daughter”—the highlight of the disc—is an old-fashioned marry-me song in much the same vein as Big Ditch Road’s “Not to Me.” Taken all together it’s not so much high lonesome as lo-fi hopeful; just the thing for playing in the car on those winter nights riding home from the bar.

Steve McPherson