Baleen

Soundtrack to a Normal Life

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This Charlotte, NC-based unit specializes in -- well, actually it doesn't specialize in anything. Its members include a saxophonist, keyboardist, guitarist, bassist, and drummer, but the sounds you'll hear on this album range far and wide -- from jungle to folk-rock to found sounds to twisted classical to faux old jazz to faux modern jazz. Such willful eclecticism can be either a delight or an annoyance, and Baleen manages to keep things generally pretty delightful. From the spoken word goofiness of "Journey to Wellness" (which harks back to "Circular Motion" by the Forehead Brothers) to the electro-organic funk of "Assistance" and the twisted take on Beethoven's Moonlight Sonata, Baleen certainly never fails to catch your attention. Inevitably, not everything works, and in this case the album drags during "Driving Song" (which starts out fun and then goes nowhere) and "Artificial Endurance." But overall, it's definitely worth a listen.

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