Son, Ambulance

Someone Else's Déjà Vu

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    8
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Son, Ambulance's third album is an impressive collection of melancholy and autumnal kitchen-sink indie pop. Filled with sweeping ballads, bopping bossa nova, and epic neo-prog tunes, Someone Else's Déjà Vu succeeds on many different levels. The production is inventive, the arrangements are richly plotted and executed, the songs are catchy, and leader Joseph Knapp's vocals are poignant throughout. He's not technically a great singer, but he has a kind of tender and sweet Art Garfunkel quality that is pleasing and peaceful, especially on the songs where the wordy lyrics don't get away from him (it happens once or twice). Drummer Jeff Koster also provides some nice vocal harmonies, especially on the very Simon & Garfunkel-sounding "Yesterday Morning." Indeed S&G are one of the main touchstones of the album's sound. With producer Mike Mogis' help, the group magically captures the echoey, majestic feel of latter-period S&G (think "The Boxer" or "Bridge Over Troubled Water"). There are also traces of Marcos Valle's best work, some Nick Drake, a little bit of Pink Floyd here and there, and maybe traces of fellow Midwesterners the Flaming Lips. For the most part, though, the group manages to escape being too in debt to its influences by writing very strong songs and performing them with unflagging conviction. Friends from Tilly and the Wall and the Faint contribute vocals and various instruments and help give the record plenty of depth and color. A possible criticism of the album is that there are too many ballads and the album starts to drag a bit in the middle. The bandmembers seem to realize this as a possibility, so they drop in the one song that kicks up some dust, "The Renegade," about two-thirds of the way in. They also save the one song that doesn't really work, the overlong, too-proggy-by-half "Requiem for a Planet," for the very end. It's too bad such a fine record has to end with a misfire, but you can just hit stop before you get there and be completely satisfied with the really good album Son, Ambulance have crafted.

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