The Upshot: A wide-eyed sense of play and make-believe runs through these songs with their carnival whistle cheerfulness, courtesy one of The Clean’s Kilgours.
BY JENNIFER KELLY
Finklestein began as a child’s story, conceived for Kilgour’s son and illustrated, perhaps, with the brightly colored drawings on the album cover. As delivered, it’s drifted pretty far from those origins. There’s no discernable plotline, and the title character makes only the most sporadic appearances in the lyrics. But there does remain an aura of the fanciful, a wide-eyed sense of play and make-believe that runs through these songs with their carnival whistle cheerfulness. You could start every one of them with “Once upon a time.”
Kilgour worked mostly solo on Finklestein, with occasional assists from producer Gary Olson (of the Ladybug Transistor). Yet the songs are anything but stripped down, instead bursting with instrumentation — the usual rock band staples plus saxophones, trumpets and pedal steel. And while a good number of them have the scratchy, homespun psychedelic winsome-ness of Kilgour’s main band, The Clean, others hare off in entirely different directions: country, free improv and tropicalia. Yet all are slicked with a certain indefinable gasoline-on-puddle-rainbow shimmer, as ordinary sounds evoke otherworldly echoes.
Thus, “Strange Angel” arises out of gentle waves of strumming, woody knocking rhythms and swirls of daydreaming keyboards, but slips its bonds and drifts untethered. “Hayride,” later on, splinters guitar tones through a prism, bending slide notes into colored light. And “Whistlestop,” the longest cut on the disc, rattles on steadily, not stopping but in no particular hurry, whispered lyrics layered over one another and tissue meshes of transparent guitar and percussion.
“Sidetracked,” a little past the disc’s midpoint, lingers sleepily at the interstice of California dream pop and Dylan-ish country, hazards a blowsy sax solo and concocts perhaps the disc’s most memorable melody. It also has the verse that best sums up the disc’s unfussed loveliness: “As you get sidetracked along the way/you’ll find a meaningful place to stay.”
DOWNLOAD: “Strange Angel” “Hayride” “Sidetracked”