Busman's Holiday

A Long Goodbye

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Busman's Holiday's full-length debut is bookended by the discordant modern string ensemble pieces/vocal folk dirges "Bones I" and "Bones II," which both metamorphose from one form into the other while playing out simultaneously à la Charles Ives. It's as if to warn us from the beginning that they are capable of just about anything, acoustically speaking, and that we should prepare our ears for the unconventional. What follows until the closer is an ambitious, harmony-centric collection of tight, catchy, orchestral indie pop tunes with at least a couple dozen different instruments in the mix. Though they clearly get a lot of help on the album, the band is comprised of the singer/songwriter duo Lewis and Addison Rogers. They're brothers, an inherent advantage sometimes in having voices that blend well, and theirs do. With their full-palette (acoustic) instrumentation and collaborators like engineer/producer Mark Lawson (Arcade Fire, Owen Pallett) and mixer Drew Vandenberg (Camper Van Beethoven, Of Montreal), there's no lack of quality production on the album, yet it maintains a homespun character. The record's live performance feel, thudding drums, imperfect instrument tones, and Lewis' light rasp go a long way in staving off any slickness in the resultant very inviting sound. Combining sincerity and playfulness in their songwriting, and with two proficient singers delivering engaging, classic '60s pop melodies, the composite is like a strange blend of Carole King and the Proclaimers, plus brass and strings. The Proclaimers mention is right on point for the enthusiasm with which Busman's Holiday perform, especially on a song like "Baby Blue" with its precise, attacking vocal harmonies. The two "Bones" tracks notwithstanding, and acknowledging the presence of ballads, there's a lightness and vibrancy to the whole album, despite typically bittersweet lyrics. "Child Actor," for instance, has a happy tone and bouncing rhythm, with acoustic guitar and drums joined by chirpy timbres including tuba as bass, marimba, and what is likely an ocarina, as an uplifting melody delivers lyrics like "Dilapidated motorhome/Telephones sing dial tone" and "They'll always forget your name/You'll always regret your fame." Even the song titled "Death" ("Death is what you're dreaming of/I see it in your eyes"), while low-key in comparison to the other tracks, is uptempo and has a friendly, Paul McCartney-like feel and turn of melody. In the end, A Long Goodbye is an impressive and feel-good record that is both celebratory and contemplative, a touch scattered, but consistently charming.

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